Free Fiction : On Darkwater by John C. Adams

On Darkwater 

The boys had been out on the lake for hours without success.

‘You need to hold me under longer if it’s going to work,’ Gerald snapped. ‘That last time I just got inky darkness and nothing more.’

The ten year old pinched his cousin. Brett scowled back and rubbed his arm.

Gerald took a deep breath and nodded that he was ready, but something indefinable held back the usually fearless Brett.

‘Don’t blame me when yer half drowned.’

‘There’s something down there. Help me see it!’

Brett ducked Gerald’s head under and held him firmly when he struggled. The seconds ticked to a minute and beyond.

Near death. Oxygen deprivation. Terrifying visions. But Gerald was determined.

As Gerald stiffed, Brett believed for the first time that this could actually work. That it might be more than his cousin’s fancy and fledgling interest in medicine taking shape down there.

Finally, Brett gripped Gerald’s shoulders and dragged him back out of the water, flinging him onto his back. After a few terrible moments of pale paralysis, he spluttered back to life.

‘Well?’

Gerald’s smile unnerved Brett. What had he seen down there?

The silence coiled around them, its poison dripping into Brett’s veins, until he doubted his ability to tell his cousin’s truth from fiction.

Brett shivered. Gerald seemed suddenly very self-contained and insular. Perhaps, if there was something down there, Brett didn’t want to know after all.

‘That’s enough for today,’ he said.

END

________________________________________________________________________________________________

John C Adams is a nonbinary author and critic of horror and fantasy fiction, reviewing for Horror Tree, British Fantasy Society and Schlock! Webzine. They’ve had short fiction, reviews and articles published in many anthologies from independent presses, on the Horror Addicts blogsite and in various magazines including the Horror Zine, Sirens Call Magazine, Lovecraftiana Magazine, Devolution Z Magazine and Blood Moon Rising Magazine.

They have a Postgraduate Certificate in Creative Writing from Newcastle University, and were longlisted for the Aeon Award twice. John’s latest horror novel ‘Blackacre Rising’ is available to preorder now on Amazon and Smashwords.

 

 

https://www.amazon.com/Blackacre-Rising-Ivy-Spires-Book-ebook/dp/B087Z4499D/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=blackacre+rising

Need a break from the New Normal? Offerings from A. Craig Newman

From the Author:

I am declaring August 3 to August 10 to be a week-long “Horrific Break From Reality”.

From August 3 to August 7, two of my books will be available for free download from Amazon.com.

Wages of Sin” – The story of two women punished for the crime of loving each other. One is forced to grow extra limbs she can’t control. She was the lucky one.

Burn – A man’s pain sets the world around him on fire.  Taking the wrong drug makes everything freeze to ice.  The pain never goes away.  After committing murder, his pain only grows stronger.

Also available on Amazon.com, “Modern Myths and Fairy Tales” will be on sale for $0.99 from August 3 until August 10, before returning to its normal price of $2.99.

On August 8 at 7 PM, I will be hosting Serial Killer Trivia: Fact and Fiction. There will be 3 fun yet creepy rounds of questions and answers with the highest scoring player of the night winning a $25 Amazon Gift Card. Have a drink, enjoy a little dark humor, investigate some of the lurking monsters who look like your next-door neighbor. Visit Yaymaker.com to purchase tickets for $10

The following excerpt is from my story “Communion Day”.  I hope you enjoy my story.

The doors at the rear of the sanctuary opened. Two large men entered with Monty between them, ankles shackled together, and wrists bound to his waist.  The larger men walked with a slow but steady gait, dragging him between them. 

“What’s going on?” he screamed. “What the hell is wrong with you people?” 

“There is no hope for us without sacrifice,” the pastor said and closed his book. 

“A sacrifice of blood. A sacrifice of flesh,” the congregation responded, finishing the Recounting. 

“What?” Monty screamed.  “Let me go! Let me go!”  He saw Celeste seated in her pew as he passed by.  “Celeste? Celeste! Help me!” The trio stopped at the front of the sanctuary before the pulpit and the great statue.  “Celeste!” Monty called over his shoulder. “Celeste!” 

“Celeste,” the pastor said, “your husband calls to you.” 

“Yes, pastor,” Celeste said before struggling to her feet. She waddled over to Monty and his guards. “Yes, honey?” she asked when she stood before him, her back to the statue. 

“What-what-what the hell is going on? What is this place? Who are these people?” 

“It’s Communion Day,” she said in the calm, even tone of a teacher.  “This is my church and this is my family.” 

“Church?” he repeated. “Like God and stuff, right?” 

“No,” Celeste said. “The Father and The Son,” she said, gesturing to the icons behind her. 

Monty’s face clouded with confusion. “What are you talking about? That’s not God! And that’s not Jesus! Why is he upside down?” 

“That’s The Son. And that was how he was sacrificed.” 

Monty shivered as if he were cold. He looked about quickly. “Honey-honey, what’s going on? Get me out of here. We’ve got to get out of here.” 

“It’s Communion Day,” she said, placing a hand on his cheek.  She kissed him. “We must all make sacrifices,” she said after their lips parted. “You are mine.” 

Ushers came to the front and moved the pulpit out of the way.  A pneumatic lift whirled to life and the great statue of Father started to rise.  Beneath it was a grate and a basin. The grate slid out towards Monty.  His guards carefully lifted his struggling figure and laid him on the grate, attaching his binds to it.  The grate slid back under the statue.  While the bulk of his body was under the statue, his head stuck out to one side. 

“Celeste! Celeste!” he screamed repeatedly. 

She moved to be closer to him, placing a hand on his cheek and kissing him again.  The pneumatic lift whirled to life again and the statue lowered.  Celeste kept her lips to his as the statue made contact and began to press on his body.  His screams into her mouth could be heard in the first rows as the statue continued its slow descent.  His screams turned to choking noises.  When she broke her kiss with Monty, he atomized blood, spraying it over his face and hers.  Monty watched Celeste wipe some of his blood from her face and lick her fingers clean before his pupils dilated and he stopped moving. 

The ushers unlocked and removed a panel at the front of the statue.  The congregation could see the filling basin.  An usher opened a spout and let the blood flow into a goblet.  Pastor Johnson held the cup and ushers stood on either side of him holding loaves of bread.  Approaching in lines, each member of the congregation tore a piece of bread from a loaf and dipped in the goblet of blood held by the pastor. 

“There is no hope without sacrifice,” the minister said to each member. “May your harvest be plentiful.”  They then ate the bread, crossed themselves, and returned to their seats for quiet meditation.

The complete text for “Communion Day” and a selection of my work can be found at www.acraignewman.com.

Free Fiction : Man Down by Katy Lohman

I’d been hearing weird noises again. Not just Saunders’ medical equipment, which hissed and fizzled and beeped like crazy. No matter how many times the nurses told me I was hearing things, I knew better. Just like I knew Saunders’ twitching movements were signs of a struggle to wake up. He’d been in a quiet coma for over a year. Now, this. Something bad was happening. If only my medications didn’t mess with my mind, keep me swimming under a thick layer of haze, I could help. I was not delusional, or senile, or any of the other things they called me cause I was 93. I suppose I was a bad patient, in that I dared to quest…

Wait. What was that?

Gro-o-onk.

I shuddered, pulling my blankets up to my face like I was ten again and the Boogeyman was in my closet. Damnit, MacLeary, grow a pair.

I peered carefully up at the ceiling. And about had a heart attack.

There was something on that ceiling. No lie. Something like a giant stick-bug with a shield-shaped face was looking down at Saunders, one leg reaching down to stroke his face tenderly. Ah, god! God! Was…was it smiling? Things like that should never smile.

It made another sound: Gr-a-a-a-akk, and began glowing red at several areas. Its chest opened up, revealing spiked ribs and emptiness. Now I was three, and wet the bed. I got up, bones creaking, glad I was off the IV (who knew I’d be so grateful for a blown vein?), and snuck to the door. Way it was focused on Saunders, I figured I had the time to flee.

But, like any curious chump, I had to look back and see.

A blue figure, rising from Saunders’ body. A skeleton? He was still-bodied, but that blue skeleton was weeping, screaming what looked like, “No, no! Please help, MacLeary, I don’t want to die. Not and go there!”

Oh, god, it was his soul the monstrosity was stealing.

I flashed back to the portal in the Black Forest. We’d seen terrible beings, beings too hideous for words, straining to get through, fighting as the war ripped through ancient wards. We’d seen a world where pain was everywhere, dealt by more of those terrible beings. Rory was pulled in before the The Man in Purple came, and what happened to him… Even the trees had screamed on that day. We’d all been forced to make the vow; to say the binding words; to make the sacrifice.

And now, this. Two old men, the only ones left, and something had finally broken through when we were too feeble to fight.

No. No. No one leaves a man behind, especially a man down, in war.  That’s what I learned in that dark, bloodied forest. Saunders was my responsibility, as I had been his so long ago. Looking where my pinky finger should have been, I wheeled around, shouted the Words, and darted forward, hoping to yank his spirit back into his body.

That’s when the monster whipped its head to peer at me. Impossibly, a hand formed at the end of one of its limbs, and it lifted a scolding finger. A long, hose-shaped tongue began emerging from its mouth.

I don’t know the feeling that shot through me; sick, shivery, cold. I just know it made me go closer to the thing, reach out to touch its hand. Had I spoken the Words wrong?

No. Not time to ask questions. Diverting my hand, I grabbed its tongue and pulled. My back spasmed, my arms cramped, but I wasn’t going to let go before it did. Even if it took eternity.

_________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Katy Lohman is a quirky, rather queer fantasy/horror writer. She writes about fae, dangerous angels, amused gods, misunderstood demons and Things That Must Not Be Named. When not writing, she can be found researching various topics, reading, asking what if, taking online classes about literature, history and philosophy, rolling dice, building decks and exploring rural Ohio (her new homeland). Right now, she’s obsessed with archangels and Sumerian gods. She has short stories published in Ugly Babies 3, 47-16: Short Fiction and Poetry Inspired by David Bowie (Volume II), and Scary Snippets: Christmas Edition.

Kbatz Kraft: Goth Parasol Upgrade

Last year I picked up an old cane umbrella at the Salvation Army Thrift Store for half the $1 sticker price. Yes, fifty cents! Though functioning, this decades-old umbrella feels delicate. Areas on the black canvas are faded and there are a few pinprick holes in the fabric. However, with the right details, this for pennies find can become the perfect goth parasol!

While the honey-colored wood handle and point are superior to modern plastic, the color doesn’t match any of my summer straw hats and bags. Fortunately, a day’s work with 80 grit sandpaper, a generous coat of Jacobean stain, and a semi-gloss topcoat create a fresh, dark finish. Rather than a recognizable bamboo or cherry, this wood smelled sweet when sanded – perhaps a good old hickory. For walking, this all-black exterior cane is sophisticated, but I left the interior stem its original warm wood color. When opened, the vintage shaft advertises old fashioned craftsmanship compared to cold contemporary metal, and inside the canopy where the notch locks there’s a piece of tape with the previous owner’s name. Instead of destroying such unexpected history, I stuck the price tag next to it, embracing a fifty-cent, fifty-year conversation piece with a story to tell. Thanks, Joseph!

After the rough stuff comes the expected parasol lace. Gathered straight lace from that three dollar cumbersome clearance roll last seen on my Victorian Bonnet became a delicious flounce sewn around the end point easily enough, but this was not going to become multiple tiers of bridal shower ruffles or baby bows and cutesy swag. More time-consuming lace both hand-gathered and machine sewed on a black ribbon was glued down to cover the faded canvas edge – just enough romanticism without being twee or too heavy. Although I couldn’t do much about the overall faded fabric, those pinprick holes could be disguised with sequin ribbon from my stash. Trails of sequins were glued over the imperfections, which when open, reflect some sunshine for a final ooh la la. Did I forget to mention this has a cute little button closure instead of lame modern Velcro? Oh yes!

With on hand craft supplies, $4 stain, and sandpaper found in the garage, for under $12 I have a priceless looking parasol with history and craftsmanship that can’t be found in those tiny yet expensive and not made to last Halloween knockoffs. Certainly, there are much more involved ways to do a complete parasol retrofit, but with the right affordable materials and glam vision, anyone can ritz up an umbrella for a sunny day in dark times. The most difficult thing here was waiting on fair weather to work outdoors. I’m too superstitious!

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts or Frightening Flix including:

Gothic Thrift Alterations

Upgrading Masquerade Masks

Gothic Romance Video Review

For more detailed Project Photos, Follow Kbatz Krafts on Facebook! 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kbatzkrafts/

Kbatz Kraft: Gothic Dark Shadows Sconces

Anyone else love those giant candelabras in the Collinwood foyer on Dark Shadows? Over the years I’ve collected some fine iron stands and hefty glam candlesticks, but such tall electric faux mood is obviously tough to find. This past holiday season, however, inspiration in creating my own imitation struck thanks to wrapping paper rolls and Christmas tree ornaments. Yes!

Upon finishing the wrapping paper, I swished the empty cardboard roll like a lightsaber as you do, but could these large tubes become a supersized Halloween Candle Cluster? Tea light toppers seemed too small, but eureka the Dollar Store came through once again with oversized light bulb shaped ornaments! Of course, they’re supposed to hang upside down, however sitting upright on top the cardboard rolls they’re perfect for that mid-century mood. A few hours and mixed coats of orange, red, and gold paint later, that bold flame faux was in full Dark Shadows effect. The location in mind for these candle imitations, unfortunately, is a small spot with little floor room for any ornate base – perhaps a re-purposed tall lamp or plant stand. On what then could I set my faux candle rolls? I spent the winter browsing ugly brass and plastic sconce shelves in the thrift store yet none were the right size, shape, or material for this old fashioned Dark Shadows look. Sconces would keep the floor free, but perusing home improvement stores didn’t yield any kind of affordable corbel or ye olde wooden plaque, either. Then, #stayathome forced my search online, and after a late night scouring on Amazon, I finally found a set of reasonably sized sconce shelves with an ornate scroll motif in the spirit of those big old candelabras. My black heart could see passed their white finish thanks to some handy burnt umber paint! The interior scrolls were painted black for dark definition, and after two umber coats, a yellow ochre dry brush added a bronzed patina.

Initially, the cardboard rolls were cut into four twelve-inch and two fourteen-inch candle pillars. Glue drips around the top created that faux melting wax, and the painted bulbs were glued on top. The bulb height, however, made the candles too tall for the shelves, so they were cut down to two ten-inch and one twelve-inch pillar per sconce. After a white base coat, more yellow ochre mixed with a dash of brown added dimension to the glue drips before mixing the white with the yellow ochre for a creamy, antique finish. The completed candles with bulbs were glued to the sconce, though the candle base felt bare compared to the Dark Shadows lamps with metal foliage accents. A $5 roll of metal craft trim from Amazon worked splendidly once painted with black and ochre for an aged look and glued in place (and I used the remaining piece to make an impromptu tiara, as you do in a pandemic amirite?) Although I spent more than usual for the sconce shelves at $20 for a set of four, the “only a few left” and delayed shipping fears are what really kick-started this three-day project into action. With $2 for wrapping paper, $6 for the bulbs, and $5 for paint and glue sticks already in stash, $38 total is an affordable, fun homage compared to a much more complex electrical redesign or antique purchase.

These gothic mock sconces were a case of working with what I had, finding inexpensive items to use in new ways, and paying more for a completed vision. It’s difficult to hold out for the right pieces or even see creative value in these tough times, but ideas and inspirations can still become a reality! There is however, a certain irony to making fake Dark Shadows candles imitating a real electric lamp that was fake candles – “vampires pretending to be humans pretending to be vampires.”

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts and Frightening Flix including:

Dark Shadows Video Review

DIY Cardboard Coffin

Painting it Black

For more step by step Project Photos, Follow Kbatz Krafts on Facebook

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kbatzkrafts/

Kbatz Kraft: DIY Flower Pens

I love zany pens – especially goofy or oversize flower pens and buy a bunch at a time whenever I see them in the Dollar Store so I have a back up when one runs out of ink. Yes, the bane of these fun conversation pieces (that no one can nonchalantly steal from us overprotective pen lovers) is that eventually, the ink ceases to flow. Occasionally I’ll leave a cool one in the pen cup, but then you inevitably end up grasping for that one working pen among the pretty but useless accumulation. Bulk pen options online look to be only cutesy daisies or rose wedding favors that feel cheap – a bud topped on a pen wrapped in ribbon. Well then, I can do that my tacky self!

Our on hand ingredients are simple:
*back to school clearance stick pens
*assorted thrift store flowers
*dollar store floral tape.

1.) After cutting single stems from the floral bunches to the length of the pen without its cap, hold the stem and pen firmly together and start wrapping the tape at the bottom of the pen.

2.) Once it is tightly started, continue winding the tape around the pen and stem – the green tape sticks to itself and any rough spots can be smoothed.

3.) At the top of the pen – just beneath the flower – the tape edge can be folded to cover the pen top.

OPTIONAL: On a few flower pens, I hot glued extra leaves from the floral bunches beneath the flower to hide any troublesome gaps.

Mine are red flowers with just the green floral tape stem, but for more dramatic looks one can use a longer flower length, feathers for faux quills, or go totally goth garden with black flowers and a black wrapped ribbon finish. My bunch inside a reused dark candle jar looks misleadingly real, and my husband said, “So THAT’S where you’ve been hiding the pens!”

This craft feels deceptively simple and almost not even worth sharing. However, during these stay at home initiatives, it’s the perfect time to revitalize old artificial flowers as something both summer vase decorative and useful fresh for that new at-home office or classroom. The kids can ritz up their writing utensils with bemusing toppers with this spare change fun, and the best part is that when the pen runs out of ink, you can remove the flowers for another project and make more themed pens per season.

Halloween pen bouquets, oh yes!

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including:

Repurposed Black Topiaries

Creepy Cloches

How to Make Stuffed Pumpkins Video

For more Project Photos, Follow Kbatz Krafts on Facebook! 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kbatzkrafts/

Facebook Party TODAY!: Angelus Rose by Loren Rhoads

HAPPENING TODAY!
“If Romeo had wings and Juliet a barbed tail, could they find happiness in the City of Angels?”

Join us for a fun hour of games, book chat, and prizes!
All online from the comfort of you own home.
Chat with author Loren Rhoads, live.
April 11th, 2pm PST

After their escape from the ashes of Lost Angels, the succubus Lorelei and the angel Azaziel want nothing more than to enjoy each other’s company. Unfortunately, Asmodeus, the Demon Prince of LA, has threatened to devour Lorelei’s new-grown soul if she doesn’t bring about Azaziel’s downfall. Meanwhile, Aza is keeping secrets of his own that threaten the tenuous peace between Heaven and Hell. 

Three archangels come to town to try to set things right, but friendships are fracturing. The demon in charge of fallen angels is sniffing around. And Los Angeles is about to catch fire between a devil and the deep blue sea.

Facebook Party: Angelus Rose by Loren Rhoads

“If Romeo had wings and Juliet a barbed tail, could they find happiness in the City of Angels?”

Join us for a fun hour of games, book chat, and prizes!
All online from the comfort of you own home.
Chat with author Loren Rhoads, live.
April 11th, 2pm PST

After their escape from the ashes of Lost Angels, the succubus Lorelei and the angel Azaziel want nothing more than to enjoy each other’s company. Unfortunately, Asmodeus, the Demon Prince of LA, has threatened to devour Lorelei’s new-grown soul if she doesn’t bring about Azaziel’s downfall. Meanwhile, Aza is keeping secrets of his own that threaten the tenuous peace between Heaven and Hell. 

Three archangels come to town to try to set things right, but friendships are fracturing. The demon in charge of fallen angels is sniffing around. And Los Angeles is about to catch fire between a devil and the deep blue sea.

Free Fiction Friday: Angelus Rose by Loren Rhoads and Brian Thomas

“If Romeo had wings and Juliet a barbed tail, could they find happiness in the City of Angels?”

Author Loren Rhoads gave us an exclusive excerpt of her new book, Angelus Rose.

After their escape from the ashes of Lost Angels, the succubus Lorelei and the angel Azaziel want nothing more than to enjoy each other’s company. Unfortunately, Asmodeus, the Demon Prince of LA, has threatened to devour Lorelei’s new-grown soul if she doesn’t bring about Azaziel’s downfall. Meanwhile, Aza is keeping secrets of his own that threaten the tenuous peace between Heaven and Hell. 

Three archangels come to town to try to set things right, but friendships are fracturing. The demon in charge of fallen angels is sniffing around. And Los Angeles is about to catch fire between a devil and the deep blue sea.


Azaziel fights the ash wraith. Excerpt from Angelus Rose by Loren Rhoads & Brian Thomas

Summoned by a sense of terrible wrongness, Aza dropped through a hole punctured through the columbarium’s roof. Animate powder fogged the heavy air. The room clattered as the metallic urns danced in their niches. Some urns had already smashed through their glass partitions, adding sharp fragments to the swirling filth.

A pair of bodies lay crumpled near a stained glass window. Sweat pasted a coating of ash to their skin. More ash obscured the colors of their clothing. These mortal warders were dead, lungs clogged with bone grit and ash. Noc, the Cambodian cook, lay where he fell, his shirt wrapped around his face in an impromptu mask.

The woman had been Dolores Gutierrez. She lay curled around a book-shaped urn that held the soul of Willy Goldenstern. Aza could feel the boy defying the evil which tried to pry him out and carry him away on a wind of damnation.

Other souls also barely held out. Despite their makeshift containers, each was battered by the growing whirlwind of fouled remains.

Aza wondered how the other angels could have overlooked this possibility. Even if the niches in the columbarium around him weren’t hallowed ground in and of themselves, they were surrounded by it, ideally presenting a safe haven for the loose souls. But no one seemed to have considered removing the urns spaced throughout the structure that had contained the unredeemed dead. Perhaps there simply hadn’t been time.

As the General of Hell drew closer, his influence called to the dust of once-damned flesh. The mausoleum hallway hissed with the sound of whispering voices as the damned entreated the children to join them.

A shape swept up to meet Aza, coalescing into a twisted starfish of soiled gray. Nebulous and solid by turns, the ash wraith struck, attempting to suffocate the angel as it had the mortals.

In the cemetery outside, Aza could have dispelled the wraith with a few powerful strokes of his wings. In the narrow confines of the columbarium’s hall, he had no room for that. Instead, Aza approached the creature, speaking a banishment to drive it back.

The wraith fled around the corner of the columbarium’s corridor, before melting into the wall of niches. It rattled among the urns, trying vainly to open them before its destruction.


Don’t miss out on a chance to chat with the author April 11th, 2pm PST on Facebook

Facebook Party: Angelus Rose by Loren Rhoads

“If Romeo had wings and Juliet a barbed tail, could they find happiness in the City of Angels?”

Join us for a fun hour of games, book chat, and prizes!
All online from the comfort of you own home.
Chat with author Loren Rhoads, live.
April 11th, 2pm PST

After their escape from the ashes of Lost Angels, the succubus Lorelei and the angel Azaziel want nothing more than to enjoy each other’s company. Unfortunately, Asmodeus, the Demon Prince of LA, has threatened to devour Lorelei’s new-grown soul if she doesn’t bring about Azaziel’s downfall. Meanwhile, Aza is keeping secrets of his own that threaten the tenuous peace between Heaven and Hell. 

Three archangels come to town to try to set things right, but friendships are fracturing. The demon in charge of fallen angels is sniffing around. And Los Angeles is about to catch fire between a devil and the deep blue sea.

Free Fiction Friday : Father’s Day by Corpsicus Hackenslash

“Father’s Day”

A doldrums day in June sat still. The sun shined hot and unrelenting, burning bright above as the day reached early afternoon. Cicadas droned metallic in the palmettos and I lay there, lost in the woods. I was on my back, staring at the great deep blue sky, in a clearing- a field surrounded by pines and oaks, and a million bugs in the trees.

Time has a funny way of passing after a thing like that. The minutes seem like eons but the days seem to be so short. It’s a permanent temporality.

As a child, there was no way I could have known the damage he had dealt to me. The memory of the whole thing just seemed to bury itself in the recesses of my mind like a hidden malignant tumor or an abscess festering away beneath the surface.

As I lay in the field, perhaps by some passing familiar shape in a cloud or maybe by a wicked streak of providence, it all came back to me. The serenity ripped away as the memory of it came crashing through the dam of repression, and the trauma of it all overwhelmed me, drowning me.

I was no longer in the field. I was back in the darkness of the basement, crying out for help with only deaf ears to hear me. I was choking, gagging, gasping for breath. I was back in the ropes that held me down as he tormented me. I was struggling futilely under the weight of his body. I was ten years old.

The hot coals of the memory burned into my open wounds, and the horror of it all was like a flock of vultures ravaging the carcass of my childhood, ripping sinuous carrion away and exposing the bones of trauma.

After all this time I was still stripped of my power, unable to shake the memory.

Out of the brush, a shuffling approached. And that was when I saw it. A baby doll with a crown of screws and a melted face limped toward me. It was my old friend, my outlet for all my suffering. It had suffered a thousand injuries and insults, but never left me behind.

It spoke to me.

“The time has come.” It said.

Baffled, I gazed up at him. “Time?”

“You got so big, I almost don’t recognize you. It’s time to put me away and leave me behind. You need to move on.” It said.

I knew what it meant. I understood what I needed to do.

My pain and terror rotted, heating up, twisting and contorting into an infected scab of burning rage. I knew that it was, in fact, time. Left alone with this revelation, I sat up in the grass. I was no longer lost, for the path had found me.

I was going to find him. I was going to kill him.

*************************************************************************************************************

Bio:

Transmission 0000003
I am Corpsicus Hackenslash STOP Put your fingers in it STOP A squirrel is not a cutting board STOP Become a fellow maniac STOP The Egyptian afterlife is a pyramid scheme STOP I will never, ever STOP
I have no web page, but I do have an Instagram account. It is @corpsicus_hackenslash. Sorry for any inconvenience that brings on.

HOW Con: New 2020 Workshops!

If you can’t take time out to be part of the Live Shout Box Events happening at the HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference Feb 25-27 never fear! Our forum based conference has numerous workshop for your Publishing, Writing, and yes, Horror inspirations!

In addition to our Previous Articles and Video Panels from last year that attendees can still access, New Workshops for our 2020 Conference include:

Speculative Author Diane Arrelle Interview

Using the Imagination Game to Inspire Ideas by Emerian Rich

How to World and Character Build in Horror by Charles F. French

What to do When Real Life Interferes with Writing by Kristin Battestella

Back to Basics: Writing Prompts Like We’re 10 Video Exercise

10 Things to Remember when Planning a Writing Event

How to Plan Workshops and Oral Presentations

And MORE!

Remember to Sign up and Log in so you can experience all HOW has to offer! 

This Week! : HOW CON 2020 Coming February 25-27!

We’re BACK and once again The HOW Conference is open to Any Genre and General Writing Topics, not just Horror!

Authors, Editors, Agents, Publishers, Readers, and Writers are invited to be part of The HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference February 25-27, 2020. Learn HOW to hone your literary craft thanks to interactive online forums, live chats, writing exercises, and more FREE opportunities to sharpen your skills wherever you are and whatever you write.

Workshop Submissions for HOW are Currently OPEN!

What kind of workshops are we looking for at HOW you ask?

~Interactive forum based workshops, worksheets, writing exercises or prompts in any genre or writing skill level
~Articles and essays with writing tips, experiences, or references, again in all genres or on technical tips, formatting, grammar, etc
~Editor, Agent, and Publisher essays, experiences, or feedback
~Articles and tips on marketing, networking, promotion, and social media for authors
~Genre-specific essays, tips, trends on world building, characters, genre perimeters, etc.

If you are an author, editor, agent, or publisher and would like to do a Q&A, chat, or live audio/visual event, let us know! Shoutbox Chats and Live Events are currently being scheduled for Tuesday, February 25 and Wednesday, February 26. Have an idea? Don’t hesitate to ask! If it is technologically possible, we want to do it at HOW!

Register now on our Free Forum at horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net for more information. Don’t worry, it’s free and Easy! Workshop submissions can be done directly through the forum system or by emailing your workshop proposal no later than February 7 to horroraddicts@gmail.com. Please use the subject heading ‘Horror Addicts Online Conference Query’ so we recognize your message.


To participate in HOW, you must register at our Online Writers Conference Forum. During the week of the conference, the Workshop boards will be open. Each board will contain the workshop threads, conveniently sorted by genre so our experts can present their tips, worksheets, brainstorming, and more. All you have to do interact – host your workshop, browse the forum, participate in one, two events or as many aspects as possible and get inspired with HOW!

Thank you for your participation and we look forward to seeing you at the Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference!

 

Revisit the Writing HOW-tos from Last Year’s Conference:

HOW Video Workshops

HOW Guest Authors

HOW Chat Transcripts

 

Reminder : HOW CON 2020 Coming February 25-27!

We’re BACK and once again The HOW Conference is open to Any Genre and General Writing Topics, not just Horror!

Authors, Editors, Agents, Publishers, Readers, and Writers are invited to be part of The HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference February 25-27, 2020. Learn HOW to hone your literary craft thanks to interactive online forums, live chats, writing exercises, and more FREE opportunities to sharpen your skills wherever you are and whatever you write.

Workshop Submissions for HOW are Currently OPEN!

What kind of workshops are we looking for at HOW you ask?

~Interactive forum based workshops, worksheets, writing exercises or prompts in any genre or writing skill level
~Articles and essays with writing tips, experiences, or references, again in all genres or on technical tips, formatting, grammar, etc
~Editor, Agent, and Publisher essays, experiences, or feedback
~Articles and tips on marketing, networking, promotion, and social media for authors
~Genre-specific essays, tips, trends on world building, characters, genre perimeters, etc.

If you are an author, editor, agent, or publisher and would like to do a Q&A, chat, or live audio/visual event, let us know! Shoutbox Chats and Live Events are currently being scheduled for Tuesday, February 25 and Wednesday, February 26. Have an idea? Don’t hesitate to ask! If it is technologically possible, we want to do it at HOW!

Register now on our Free Forum at horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net for more information. Don’t worry, it’s free and Easy! Workshop submissions can be done directly through the forum system or by emailing your workshop proposal no later than February 7 to horroraddicts@gmail.com. Please use the subject heading ‘Horror Addicts Online Conference Query’ so we recognize your message.


To participate in HOW, you must register at our Online Writers Conference Forum. During the week of the conference, the Workshop boards will be open. Each board will contain the workshop threads, conveniently sorted by genre so our experts can present their tips, worksheets, brainstorming, and more. All you have to do interact – host your workshop, browse the forum, participate in one, two events or as many aspects as possible and get inspired with HOW!

Thank you for your participation and we look forward to seeing you at the Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference!

 

Revisit the Writing HOW-tos from Last Year’s Conference:

HOW Video Workshops

HOW Guest Authors

HOW Chat Transcripts

 

Reminder : HOW CON 2020 Coming February 25-27!

We’re BACK and once again The HOW Conference is open to Any Genre and General Writing Topics, not just Horror!

Authors, Editors, Agents, Publishers, Readers, and Writers are invited to be part of The HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference February 25-27, 2020. Learn HOW to hone your literary craft thanks to interactive online forums, live chats, writing exercises, and more FREE opportunities to sharpen your skills wherever you are and whatever you write.

Workshop Submissions for HOW are Currently OPEN!

What kind of workshops are we looking for at HOW you ask?

~Interactive forum based workshops, worksheets, writing exercises or prompts in any genre or writing skill level
~Articles and essays with writing tips, experiences, or references, again in all genres or on technical tips, formatting, grammar, etc
~Editor, Agent, and Publisher essays, experiences, or feedback
~Articles and tips on marketing, networking, promotion, and social media for authors
~Genre-specific essays, tips, trends on world building, characters, genre perimeters, etc.

If you are an author, editor, agent, or publisher and would like to do a Q&A, chat, or live audio/visual event, let us know! Shoutbox Chats and Live Events are currently being scheduled for Tuesday, February 25 and Wednesday, February 26. Have an idea? Don’t hesitate to ask! If it is technologically possible, we want to do it at HOW!

Register now on our Free Forum at horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net for more information. Don’t worry, it’s free and Easy! Workshop submissions can be done directly through the forum system or by emailing your workshop proposal no later than February 7 to horroraddicts@gmail.com. Please use the subject heading ‘Horror Addicts Online Conference Query’ so we recognize your message.


To participate in HOW, you must register at our Online Writers Conference Forum. During the week of the conference, the Workshop boards will be open. Each board will contain the workshop threads, conveniently sorted by genre so our experts can present their tips, worksheets, brainstorming, and more. All you have to do interact – host your workshop, browse the forum, participate in one, two events or as many aspects as possible and get inspired with HOW!

Thank you for your participation and we look forward to seeing you at the Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference!

 

Revisit the Writing HOW-tos from Last Year’s Conference:

HOW Video Workshops

HOW Guest Authors

HOW Chat Transcripts

 

HOW CON 2020 Coming February 25-27!

We’re BACK and once again The HOW Conference is open to Any Genre and General Writing Topics, not just Horror!

Authors, Editors, Agents, Publishers, Readers, and Writers are invited to be part of The HorrorAddicts.net Online Writers Conference February 25-27, 2020. Learn HOW to hone your literary craft thanks to interactive online forums, live chats, writing exercises, and more FREE opportunities to sharpen your skills wherever you are and whatever you write.

Workshop Submissions for HOW are Currently OPEN!

What kind of workshops are we looking for at HOW you ask?

~Interactive forum based workshops, worksheets, writing exercises or prompts in any genre or writing skill level
~Articles and essays with writing tips, experiences, or references, again in all genres or on technical tips, formatting, grammar, etc
~Editor, Agent, and Publisher essays, experiences, or feedback
~Articles and tips on marketing, networking, promotion, and social media for authors
~Genre-specific essays, tips, trends on world building, characters, genre perimeters, etc.

If you are an author, editor, agent, or publisher and would like to do a Q&A, chat, or live audio/visual event, let us know! Shoutbox Chats and Live Events are currently being scheduled for Tuesday, February 25 and Wednesday, February 26. Have an idea? Don’t hesitate to ask! If it is technologically possible, we want to do it at HOW!

Register now on our Free Forum at horroraddictswriters.freeforums.net for more information. Don’t worry, it’s free and Easy! Workshop submissions can be done directly through the forum system or by emailing your workshop proposal no later than February 7 to horroraddicts@gmail.com. Please use the subject heading ‘Horror Addicts Online Conference Query’ so we recognize your message.


To participate in HOW, you must register at our Online Writers Conference Forum. During the week of the conference, the Workshop boards will be open. Each board will contain the workshop threads, conveniently sorted by genre so our experts can present their tips, worksheets, brainstorming, and more. All you have to do interact – host your workshop, browse the forum, participate in one, two events or as many aspects as possible and get inspired with HOW!

Thank you for your participation and we look forward to seeing you at the Horror Addicts.net Online Writers Conference!

 

Revisit the Writing HOW-tos from Last Year’s Conference:

HOW Video Workshops

HOW Guest Authors

HOW Chat Transcripts

 

Kid Fears Free Fiction Friday: Leaf Pile by Emerian Rich

Leaf Pile

by Emerian Rich

Jason said it was safe, so I went ahead and jumped. What harm could a pile of leaves do, right? He said he’d done it before. Loads of times.

I had on my big orange ski coat ‘cause the cold had come early and Mom hadn’t had a chance to get me a new jacket. With that ski coat on, I felt like a wrestler. One of those huge guys with big muscles. Nothin’ could hurt me. Maybe I was more like The Hulk. Yeah. The Hulk in rage mode. Indestructible. Not even Thanos could hurt me.

I zipped up and pulled the hood over my ears. The pile of leaves was a big, orange-brown-red cushion, waiting for me to plow into it and land on the other side. If only I had a mini-trampoline to jump in from higher like I did on the diving board to make a bigger splash.

I ran and jumped as high as I could. Just before I sunk in—expecting the crinkle and crunch of smashed leaves—a deep, dark hole opened up. Mid-air there was nothing I could do. I fell into the damp hole, leaves clinging to my legs and face, forcing me deeper into the mass of foliage.

Now, I’m a part of the pile. I can’t move. The leaves have me tied down in my big orange coat. My legs feel like they’ve been bound by vines, but I can’t move to look down and see. My vision is blurred orange as if I’m behind a stained glass window. It’s hard to breathe and I can’t speak. Leaves have covered my mouth with their thick, earthy stench.

People see my orange ski coat as they walk by, but they just dismiss it for leaves. Even Mom didn’t recognize it when she walked by, calling out my name in a panicked yell.

Soon it will be dark and they’ll give up the search. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to survive, but I feel warm living fur behind me. I just wonder…will it save me? Or eat me?

It Came From the Vault: Traditions by Stephen Kozeniewski

vault

TRADITIONS

by Stephen Kozeniewski 

Granny clattered on the counter with a wooden spoon until the children stopped squabbling. When they finally turned to pay attention, she smiled, baring each and every bright white denture with joy.

“All right, little nuggets,” she said, “Now granny is going to show you what to do. Come up here.”

She lifted two-year-old Benji and planted him on the counter beside the sheer metal stockpot that was almost as tall as him.

“Now, Benji, this wax is very hot so don’t put your fingers in it and don’t splash.”

“Yes, grandma.”

“Now start to feed the coil in slowly and let me know when you run out of length.”

Giggling, Benji did as he was told.

“Granny, why do we wax the decorations?” little Suzie asked, her pinky hooked into the corner of her mouth.

“So that they last, my dear.”

“And why do we want them to last?”

Granny crouched down to Suzie’s level, even though it pained her ankles.

“Because it’s a tradition, my dear.”

Little Suzie’s eyes lit up with the wonder of excitement and recognition.

“A t’adition?”

Granny nodded.

“Like when we invite a homeless person in for Christmas?”

“That’s right.”

“All done!” Benji announced, clinging to the last link of this year’s holiday visitor’s small intestine.

Together, as they did every year, they draped the wax-dipped organ around their tree of horrors. The attic was starting to overflow with their collection of decorations.

“God bless us every one,” Benji said joyously.

******************

Kozeniewski Author PhotoStephen Kozeniewski (pronounced “causin’ ooze key”) lives with his wife and two cats in Pennsylvania, the birthplace of the modern zombie. During his time as a Field Artillery officer, he served for three years in Oklahoma and one in Iraq, where due to what he assumes was a clerical error, he was awarded the Bronze Star. He is also a classically trained linguist, which sounds much more impressive than saying his bachelor’s degree is in German. Find out more at: www.amazon.com/author/kozeniewski

Kid Fears Free Fiction Friday: Dark Angels by Emerian Rich

An early story by Emerian Rich. Published in DarkLives ‘Zine 1997.

Dark  Angels
by Emerian Rich

Among the high majestic redwoods, behind a cluster of small shacks, atop steep hill, is a log cabin church. It’s old, drafty, and doesn’t lock. This is the place where the fight of angels began. 

I was eight years old when I first heard the warnings of the crazy preacher. Early on Sunday morning in the middle of summer is not the best time to be in church. So many distractions caught me losing concentration while the old man spoke. The sun was bright, shining through the tiny cracks in the ceiling time had put there and making a strange design on the floor. There were no lights in the church and although the windows were not covered and the door was open, the redwoods shaded it, making the place strangely dim. Birds sang happily and there was a rustle in the bushes that had to be a deer or raccoon.

The black preacher’s voice was deep and commanded attention. He spoke of war and fire. His hands were huge as he mimicked the flight of an angel.

“Listen, children, and beware, for it’s a comin’ and you won’t want to be here when it does. The devil, he got angels, too. And they will take your soul if you let em!”  the preacher said.

The children were scared, their eyes wide with horror, gripping the benches till their knuckles turned white. The adults in the chapel looked around nervously, motioning for the head counselor to “do something.” They moved the children out of the church and told us to go to the playground.

The old preacher still spoke, even though his words were drowned out by the noise erupting from every small little body. He spoke louder, determined that every ear would hear his warnings.

I was being pushed by the children beside me to get up and go outside.

“We can go!  Get out of the way!” a nasty brown-haired kid with mud on his face said as he shoved me toward the door.

I stood, stumbling over the first three rows of wooden bleachers and falling onto the dirty floor. Kids ran past me, shouting and laughing.

“Let’s play!”

“Race you to the swings!”

“I’m first on the slide!” they screamed in a jumbled mess of voices.

I stood, brushing the dirt off my skinned knees and straighten my dress. I looked up slowly, not wanting to meet the eyes of the old preacher. I was the last one listening and he glared at me as he spoke. 

“Fire will explode, little one. Explode!” he screamed as the other adults dragged him away.

An adult pulled me away and out to the campground.

“Beware of the Dark Angels!” the preacher yelled as we were pulled away. 

***

At nap time, I lay in my lower bunk, thinking of how strange the whole day had been. I looked at the other kids who were asleep, faces smashed against their beds. Was I the only one that found some interest in the old man’s story? I wondered what the Dark Angels looked like and snuggled deeper into my sleeping bag. I imagined their massive black wings flapping violently. Why was I the only one listening to the old preacher? Why were the other kids trampling over me to get out and play? Weren’t they scared of the Dark Angels coming to get them?

***

At free time I decided not to go swimming, but to go in search of the old man. I knew where they had taken him. There was some kind of building up in the forest. A place I had only seen from afar when entering the camp in a broken-down stuffy church bus.

When I got to the log cabin church, it was deserted and only gave a few cracking noises from within as if settling back down from being trampled on by tons of kids that morning. I stared up at the steep hill that led to the unknown building. It was the hill that we told ghost stories about in our cabin at night. My body quivered but I kept on. I had to know the secret of the Dark Angels.

The trees above wrestled with the wind and dropped acorns all around me. I screamed, jumping back and tripping on a boulder. My head throbbed and every one of my limbs was skinned. I got up slowly, hoping my leg oozing blood wasn’t broken. I straightened my dress and brushed the leaves and dirt from my face and arms. 

“Kylie…” a voice called out of the woods. 

I turned, searching every tree and bush for the source.

“Kylie Ross, you should not be up here, my dear,” said the old black preacher as he stepped out from behind a huge Redwood.

I was speechless and all of a sudden scared of the man that I had been searching for.  

“Don’t be frightened, young one. I won’t hurt you.”

“How did you know my name?” I asked.

“God told me about you. You are a special child, see?”

“He did?”

The old preacher nodded. “Let’s get you fixed up.” He offered his hand and led me back into the log cabin church. Taking out a first aid kit, he helped me clean up my wounds. I had bandaids on both my knees and one elbow by the time we were done. The sun was fading and my tummy rumbled, but I wasn’t going to leave the preacher man until I found out about the Dark Angels.

A noise outside drew the old preacher’s attention. Scuffling and flapping came from beyond the open door.

“Kylie, you stay here for a spell,” the preacher said and ventured into the waning light. 

I waited for a while. Until the light was so dim I could barely see the outline of the door. 

“Preacher?” I called, but no answer came. My timid footsteps whispered across the floor and I peeked into the darkness.

There were adults outside but no preacher. I knew if I was found up there alone, there would be trouble, so I tried to sneak around the church and back down the camp before any of them caught me. The adults all wore long brown jackets and hats. I was almost in the clear when I tripped on a rock and turned my ankle. Dirt and rocks scattered down the hill and made one of the adults turn my direction. His face was pure white and his eyes fiery red.

“Get her!” he commanded, throwing off his coat to expose massive black wings. 

I screamed as they came after me. Their eyes pierced through me. Ten pairs of wings surrounded me and I knew I was never going to get out of their dark clutches.

A high-pitched tone came out of the darkness, making the Dark Angels clutch their ears and recoil into black-feathered balls. Up over their hunch bodies came the brightest light I’d ever seen.

“Kylie, you are not safe here,” a white-winged angel said, sweeping me up and carrying me to safety away from the dark monsters.

The angel was beautiful and her eyes were ice blue. Her wings encircled me and were as soft as my bed at home. She held me tightly as we soared through the air to a branch out high above. The Dark Angels below woke from their confusion and looked up into the trees.

“Hold on to the tree. Don’t let go. We’ll be back,” the white-winged angel said and jumped off the branch. A dozen angels like her, shining bright with light, swooped down, their white hair blowing behind them as they fell. 

Screams filled the air as the fight of the angels began. 

END

Kbatz Kraft: DIY Cardboard Coffin

I told myself, “Kbatz, no more cardboard tombstones!” and had actually been recycling several of the boxes that came my way. However, when one long, slender, perfectly coffin sized box happened upon my doorstep, I could not ignore it!

Granted, this was only the oblong base for a Cardboard Coffin that suddenly landed in my lap, and I needed to make the graduated, angular top to complete the silhouette. Cutting another box open to adjust around the top of my long box took some trial and error – centering as best possible, taping the flaps down to close the front, then reinforcing all the seams with more masking tape. After the front was loosely in place, I laid down my delicate shape and traced the top onto another piece of cardboard to be used as the backing piece. One could leave portions of the coffin open, but that can seem like parts were missing and this needed the structural support as well.

Although, one flap on my top box was indeed missing. I thought about cutting another piece of cardboard to wedge it closed, but the Bob Ross happy accidents continued once I decided to leave it open for some creepy hands to pop out. I have some Dollar Store skeleton hands intended for making coffins out of old pallets in yet another get to it someday project, but when looking for the skeleton hands I found monster fingers I had picked up at Goodwill for $1. Because these are singles rather than a jointed boney hand, I could spread them further apart to cover the opening as well as let them really stick away from the coffin for total scary effect!

Before I could break the monster out, however, I had to paint my cardboard coffin. Using the same technique as my DIY Tombstones, I graduated and varied different brown and black acrylic paints in marbled streaks with darker old sections and lighter, seemingly worn corners. After a few coats of blending for full coverage, my cardboard was really starting to look like a coffin! Should I paint on a big R.I.P.? Add claw streaks from my monster nails? I chose to leave the coffin plain otherwise, but a real artist could add monster eyes or pre-made ripped open monster decals. They do make ’em!

Now it was time to hot glue in my green monster fingers, spacing them out with Dollar Store moss to fill in any remaining gaps. It didn’t take long at all and the creepy long fingers set off the entire piece. Who has time to notice it’s really just a holey, tape together piece of cardboard? Since this wasn’t a coffin for the dead with a skeleton hand and more a buried monster break out, I picked up some Dollar Store chains to go around the box, adding visual balance while hiding some trouble spots. You can buy foldable fabric and cardboard cutout coffins in the Halloween store, but for their borrowed time breakable, store bought faux seems over priced at $25 or more. Then again, seriously sophisticated Halloween folks can get elaborate here with sound effects, motion sensors, or lighting – spending for a prop that will certainly scare as well as last if you have the right materials and know how. Naturally any cutting is best left to mom and dad and kids would need help in holding everything together as it is assembled, but this can be a family friendly project customizing what scary zombie arms or fun tails and toes to expose.

Because I had to open the top box and tape the angles back together, this coffin was slightly flimsy and top heavy. Maybe the cardboard should actually look more like damaged wood with jagged edges, and there are probably more sturdy materials to make your own DIY Coffin. I also dislike the noticeable seams upon closer inspection and even for a coffin getting bent out of shape by the monster inside, the proportions are still a little askew. For an on the whim project, however, this came together quickly in a few days with only paint drying delays. Using found materials and basic supplies that cost under $12, I now have a fun, spontaneous Halloween showstopper.

(It’s amazing what you can do in a day without internet service, and apologies to the workmen outside my house that afternoon who may have looked in my front window to see an upright coffin in the center of the room, you know, just chillin’.)

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including:

How to Make Stuffed Pumpkins

Spooky Spellbooks

Tea Stained Labels and Spooky Bottles

Creepy Cloches

It’s a Pumpkin Cat House

Re-Purposed Halloween Topiaries

Pumpkin Ottomans, Oh Yes!

DIY Spooky Candle Clusters

Cardboard Tombstones How-To Video

Kbatz Kraft: Paint it Black

Like The Rolling Stones said, sometimes when you want a little morose, all you need is a hefty coat of black paint. A $4 grab bag of bowl filler from our trusty Mr. Goodwill helped me prove this theory as traditional balls and gourds became rustic orbs and goth glam. Shiny brass or holiday gold candlesticks and sconces likewise become sophisticated, useful pieces year-round, and Dollar Store frames turned into expensive-looking conversation pieces.

As discussed in my Re-purposed Black Topiaries project, painting floral items black is more involved, but worth the spooky look. When I picked up another holiday vase filled with pine and poinsettia greenery for $3, out came the flowers and everything else was spray painted black – tacky gold base, leaves, stems, and all. Touch-ups were needed for some of the smaller needles, but now I have a black floral base that can change with the season. After some cream and blush color flowers on the empty picks for the summer, it’s all black flowers for Halloween, red for the holidays, purple for winter, and white for spring. Customizing fake flora displays at the craft store can get pricey, but for $5 including spray paint, I have not just one one of kind centerpiece, but five.

Perhaps everything all black all the time would be too much for some, but one or two black accent pieces can be classic or rustic to suit your décor without being expensive. After last year’s Spooky Bottles and Tea Stained Labels, black paint came to rescue when I wanted to add more creepy jars to my shelf. Saving a few unique bottles from the recycling, painting them black, and wrapping rustic twine around the tops adds a touch of mystery to any apothecary. Have anything broken and useless lingering in your garage? I took apart the base of a damaged silver lamp, removed the wiring and painted the pieces black for a few more goth candle holders.

When my mom gave me this little lantern house – bought for pennies at the thrift store – I was tempted to keep the tin look. However, it felt a bit too country amid the rest of my décor. So I painted it all black for a fun light not just for Halloween, but something that can be used year-round. For those fearful of bigger crafts and projects or those hesitant to go bold and expensive with dark, sophisticated colors, painting smaller items black is a can’t go wrong, affordable touch for any room or season.

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including:

How to Make Stuffed Pumpkins

Spooky Spellbooks

Tea Stained Labels and Spooky Bottles

Creepy Cloches

It’s a Pumpkin Cat House

Pumpkin Ottomans, Oh Yes

DIY Halloween Candle Clusters

Kbatz Kraft: Cardboard Tombstones Photo Shoot

Trees are changing color, leaves are falling on the ground – it’s the perfect time to break out my DIY Cardboard Tombstones for a little spin in the backyard. You know, just to keep the neighbors talking!

As I detailed in my How To DIY Cardboard Tombstones Video, this type of cardboard graveyard is really only meant for one night of wow during Trick or Treating times or Halloween itself rather than all October long. I had purchased a spray sealant expressly for paper crafts but didn’t like the way it looked on a few tests, and after being stored as a faux stone wall in my basement, three of the earliest stones had chipped paint and needed touch-ups. One thing, however that I didn’t anticipate was how heat may effect the boxes. Fortunately, only the Shakespeare (which was made from taped together corrugated cardboard which I said not to do in my video) needs structural repair after warping in the sun during my photoshoot. If you live in a place that is always hot and sunny on Halloween and intend to have cardboard tombstones outside for more than a few hours, you should probably research what tape or glue and supplies may be better. By keeping these from getting wet, storing them delicately, and expecting to have minor repairs, one can probably get a few seasons worth out of this cardboard graveyard or eventually retire damaged ones and paint more boxes into tombstones anew. That’s not bad for $50 in supplies making twenty big headstones, columns, a fountain, and a unique gateway compared to $20 or $30 for a generic store-bought kit of small, breakable foam headstones.

For a final touch, I hot glued moss on a variety of nooks, crannies, and corners on each of the headstones. I had used green paint on several already for an aged patina and didn’t want to overdo it and cover them all up, but a hint of realistic greenery also hid any imperfections. Remember, though, that some faults are okay – embrace the crooked box or the ripped corner for that two-hundred-year-old spooky look! Although I left my graveyard plain rather than go overboard on accessories like blood for Dracula or tentacles for Lovecraft, those with know-how can add color lights, sensors, sounds, motion effects, and go plum buck wild for an entire haunted house tour through the cemetery. I certainly intend to keep my gateway ready for more spooky photography scenes.

It took me off and on about five weekends to do these, and so long as you leave any cutting or hefty painting to mom and dad, a family doing a few at a time can probably make a good dozen in a few weekends, too. Recycle and get the whole family to embrace their inner Halloween Picassos!

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including:

How to Make Stuffed Pumpkins

Spooky Spellbooks

Tea Stained Labels and Spooky Bottles

Creepy Cloches

It’s a Pumpkin Cat House

Re-Purposed Halloween Topiaries

Pumpkin Ottomans, Oh Yes!

DIY Spooky Candle Clusters

Cardboard Tombstones How-To Video

Kbatz Kraft: Cardboard Tombstones Video How-To!

Why paint just one box gray when you can make use of all your cardboard boxes for an entire DIY Graveyard?

Check out Yours Truly Kbatz in My Latest Video for details on the pros and cons of making your own Cardboard Cemetery!

 

Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz gets a little BATTY in showing how you, yes YOU can make your very own Customized Cardboard Tombstones for the BEST Halloween Haunt in YOUR Neighborhood! Also featuring Giant Pumpkins, Scary Basements, and One Pesky Feline.

 

Thank you for being part of Horror Addicts.net and enjoying our Video, Podcast, and Media Coverage!

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including:

How to Make Stuffed Pumpkins

Spooky Spellbooks

Tea Stained Labels and Spooky Bottles

Creepy Cloches

It’s a Pumpkin Cat House

Pumpkin Ottomans, Oh yes

Kbatz Kraft: Yo-Ghost Candlesticks!

Does your family love those on the go and drinkable yogurts? Do you purchase bulk six or eight packs weekly only to rinse and toss the bottles in the recycling bin without a second thought to your penchant for horror décor?

One day the label was partially peeling off my drinkable yogurt, so I pulled it off all the way, as you do. Suddenly, it wasn’t a convenient snack but a blank white slate. I saved it for some more spooky bottle projects – painting it ye olde and putting a creepy label on it as seen in my Spooky Bottles and Tea Stained Labels fun last Halloween.

However, after using pre-cut foam letters on this year’s Cardboard Tombstones, there were a lot of filler pieces left over – the inside of the O, triangles within the A, pop-outs from Ps, Bs, and Rs. Rather than seeing these little black stickers as trash, my horror brain saw the inner O as an open, gasping mouth. Eureka, these little throwaway pieces could be the faces for a ghostly white yogurt bottle. Immediately I chugged down some more yogurt just to save the bottles, sticking the letter bits on the plain white surface. Varying the eye shapes and the angles of the O mouths looked cute, but trying some other shapes for the mouths didn’t look right and it was nice to leave them matching in some way. What then was I to do with a bottle that looks like a ghost? I don’t have any white décor, and even painted the Dollar Store battery candles from a stark white to a more aged, cream color…

Since they are marketed as a purely Halloween item, I buy up all the battery candles once they arrive at the Dollar Store in the fall. I told the checkout lady I used them all year and all over my house – which I guess might be strange if I was stocking up on the ones that have the red blood drips on them. The plain white ones, however, come in a removable black base and are perfect for sitting in the window sill as well as candelabras or sconces where drafts or smoke detectors are impractical for real candles. Putting the candles inside the ghost bottles didn’t work, nor did sitting them on top with the cap removed, but putting the black base on top of the cap fit perfectly!

Now, I had a use for my ghost bottles as ghost candlesticks! Lo, though they still seemed incomplete. A candle stuck on top of a bottle, big deal. I thought I could wrap some twine around the base to create something rustic just like the Halloween décor you see in the store. Ironically, wrapping the connection in plain old Dollar Store twine was one of the most difficult and time consuming tasks in all of my Kbatz Krafts. Rather than gluing one end to wrap wrap and then glue the other end, the curved base forced me to glue as I went, wrap more than one area numerous times for full coverage, and cut or glue pieces in extra layers. I’m pleased with the result, but what I expected to take an hour took an entire evening, a lot of glue sticks, and somehow a bit of back pain.

Cute and rustic aren’t really my style, however, I had the materials to make something fun and went where the spooky appeal took me. It’s tough for Horror Addicts to find some of the décor we like, and if then only around Halloween. By necessity we should look at generic objects in a potentially unique way. These yogurt bottles could be painted orange with pumpkin faces used as a fall vase or green for monsters with fun objects on top. Kids can learn about recycling by saving their own bottles for a personalized craft – so long as adults handle the tedious twine gluing!

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including:

How to Make Stuffed Pumpkins

Spooky Spellbooks

Tea Stained Labels and Spooky Bottles

Creepy Cloches

It’s a Pumpkin Cat House

Kbatz Kraft: Cardboard Tombstones Video How-To!

Why paint just one box gray when you can make use of all your cardboard boxes for an entire DIY Graveyard?

Check out Yours Truly Kbatz in My Latest Video for details on the pros and cons of making your own Cardboard Cemetery!

 

Kristin Battestella aka Kbatz gets a little BATTY in showing how you, yes YOU can make your very own Customized Cardboard Tombstones for the BEST Halloween Haunt in YOUR Neighborhood! Also featuring Giant Pumpkins, Scary Basements, and One Pesky Feline.

 

Thank you for being part of Horror Addicts.net and enjoying our Video, Podcast, and Media Coverage!

Revisit more Kbatz Krafts including:

How to Make Stuffed Pumpkins

Spooky Spellbooks

Tea Stained Labels and Spooky Bottles

Creepy Cloches

It’s a Pumpkin Cat House

Pumpkin Ottomans, Oh yes

Free Fiction: Smart Machines | A Short by Kay Tracy

It was a Saturday, before the holidays. I had to pull some overtime on a few reports for the boss. Friday night, in the winter, now well after dark, and I couldn’t get the door to open. Something moved behind me low on the floor. A mouse? 

That was three weeks ago, and I am still here. I can’t get out. Gods help me, I truly wish I could say it was because of my boss.  How I wish a mouse was what I had glimpsed!

The firefighters who broke open the door keep trying to tell me I was in shock.

People sometimes ask about it, but no one really ‘knows’. Folks really don’t want to know. 

You have seen them in many offices, those machines that will print, copy, and, staple.  Oh, to be sure, there is someone who is designated to change the ink or toner as it calls for it.  And usually, office etiquette says, if you empty the paper, then you are supposed to put more into the machine.  Easy enough, but there is one thing most people never think about. I know I never did. At least, not until now. 

It was trivial at first. I started noticing little things go missing. It was easy enough to think it was my co-workers.  Steph had run out of paperclips and took some from my desk. No worry there. The odd safety pin that I would keep in my drawer was next. I did think it was a bit rude for folks to go into the drawers of my desk without asking first. I mean, really!

In talking to others, I found out that they too had had things go missing from their desks. Small stuff at first.  Then James complained that his new steel mug and thermos was gone. Julia’s power cord to her computer was next. Harold had an entire desk lamp disappear. The objects were getting larger, and stranger. Soon, anything that was made of metal was going missing.  Small pocket change, keys, it seemed odd. Then William asked when we got the pretty staples. Everyone came to see, and there on his desk was a stack of reports with copper-colored staples. I wondered about all those pennies that were once in the coffee fund can, which was now missing.  But then, so too was the coffee maker!

I am desperate now, trying to find a way out of here.  The parts inside the phone are gone now. The thing grows longer snakelike arms every day.   The larger, more complicated items it brings to me for disassembly. I have no idea when it will have all it wants or needs, maybe then I can leave.

People really should know about these things.   Maintenance includes more than just the paper and ink.  More than just the “machine guy” every three months for a cleaning and lube. The staples should not be overlooked on these ‘smart machines’.

Press Release: Queen Mary Movies (reminder)

Queen Mary’s 2019 Movie Night Summer Series

Presents FREE Outdoor Film Events at the Queen Mary

WHAT:

The Queen Mary is proud to present the 2019 Movie Night Summer Series, welcoming the community to sit back, set up a picnic with friends and family, and soak up the silver screen under the summer night sky. Each movie night will offer guests an immersive cinematic experience with assorted food trucks themed to the film, full bars for those age 21 and over, and the legendary ship and Long Beach Harbor as backdrops. Taking place on select Thursday nights each month May through August and located on a grassy lawn adjacent to the Queen Mary, film titles include Mamma Mia! (2008), a double feature of Indiana Jones – Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Temple of Doom (1984), Grease (1978), and double feature Beetlejuice (1988), Edward Scissorhands (1990). The movie nights are open to all ages and free to attend. Date Night Packages are available for $75 per couple and include a reserved couch for two, one bottle of signature Queen Mary Champagne, assorted snacks, and more!

WHEN:

  • August 22, 2019, 6 p.m. – 12 a.m.: Double Feature: Beetlejuice & Edward Scissorhands

WHERE:

The Queen Mary Seawalk (lawn adjacent to the ship)

1126 Queens Hwy, Long Beach, CA., 90802

TICKETS:

General Admission: Free

Date Night Package Upgrade: $75 per couple

PARKING:

$10 per vehicle on-site.

# # #

About the Queen Mary

Located in the Port of Long Beach, the Queen Mary, an Urban Commons property, features a rich maritime history, authentic Art Deco décor, and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and Long Beach city skyline. At the time of her maiden voyage in May of 1936, she was considered the grandest ocean liner ever built. The Queen Mary’s signature restaurants include Sir Winston’s, Chelsea Chowder House, Promenade Café, Observation Bar, as well as, a weekly award-winning Royal Sunday Brunch served in the ship’s Grand Salon. History buffs enjoy the ship’s museum with various daily tours, and currently, the ship is featuring their newest exhibition, Their Finest Hours: Winston Churchill and the Queen Mary. The Queen Mary features 35,000 square feet of event space in 13 remarkable Art Deco salons as well as a tri-level, 45,000-square- foot Exhibit Hall. The Queen Mary boasts 347 staterooms including nine suites. For more information or for reservations, visit www.queenmary.com or call (800) 437-2934. The Queen Mary is located at 1126 Queens Highway in Long Beach.

Press Release: Queen Mary / Free Movies

 

Queen Mary’s 2019 Movie Night Summer Series

Presents FREE Outdoor Film Events at the Queen Mary

WHAT:

The Queen Mary is proud to present the 2019 Movie Night Summer Series, welcoming the community to sit back, set up a picnic with friends and family, and soak up the silver screen under the summer night sky. Each movie night will offer guests an immersive cinematic experience with assorted food trucks themed to the film, full bars for those age 21 and over, and the legendary ship and Long Beach Harbor as backdrops. Taking place on select Thursday nights each month May through August and located on a grassy lawn adjacent to the Queen Mary, film titles include Mamma Mia! (2008), a double feature of Indiana Jones – Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), Temple of Doom (1984), Grease (1978), and double feature Beetlejuice (1988), Edward Scissorhands (1990). The movie nights are open to all ages and free to attend. Date Night Packages are available for $75 per couple and include a reserved couch for two, one bottle of signature Queen Mary Champagne, assorted snacks, and more!

WHEN:

  • August 22, 2019, 6 p.m. – 12 a.m.: Double Feature: Beetlejuice & Edward Scissorhands

WHERE:

The Queen Mary Seawalk (lawn adjacent to the ship)

1126 Queens Hwy, Long Beach, CA., 90802

TICKETS:

General Admission: Free

Date Night Package Upgrade: $75 per couple

PARKING:

$10 per vehicle on-site.

# # #

About the Queen Mary

Located in the Port of Long Beach, the Queen Mary, an Urban Commons property, features a rich maritime history, authentic Art Deco décor, and stunning views of the Pacific Ocean and Long Beach city skyline. At the time of her maiden voyage in May of 1936, she was considered the grandest ocean liner ever built. The Queen Mary’s signature restaurants include Sir Winston’s, Chelsea Chowder House, Promenade Café, Observation Bar, as well as, a weekly award-winning Royal Sunday Brunch served in the ship’s Grand Salon. History buffs enjoy the ship’s museum with various daily tours, and currently, the ship is featuring their newest exhibition, Their Finest Hours: Winston Churchill and the Queen Mary. The Queen Mary features 35,000 square feet of event space in 13 remarkable Art Deco salons as well as a tri-level, 45,000-square- foot Exhibit Hall. The Queen Mary boasts 347 staterooms including nine suites. For more information or for reservations, visit www.queenmary.com or call (800) 437-2934. The Queen Mary is located at 1126 Queens Highway in Long Beach.

#KillSwitch Facebook Party — TONIGHT!

KSssALT

You are cordially invited to attend the Tech Horror Party of the year. In honor of the Kill Switch release, HorrorAddicts.net will hold a gala Facebook Party complete with games, trivia, and prizes of all sizes. Please, RSVP and bring a friend.

Date: June 14th 2019– TONIGHT!

Time: 6:00-8:00 PM PST

Where: Online at KILL SWITCH RELEASE PARTY

Be there and Be Spooky!!

Sincerely,

HorrorAddicts.net

BHH: “Outcasts” by Valjeanne Jeffers 3 of 3

“Outcasts” by Valjeanne Jeffers 3 of 3

Monique sat in bed beside her window, trying to keep her eyes open. Tomorrow during the chilly dawn, her jailers would drag her out of bed to put her in the cage. Yet instead of sleeping, one of her few refuges, she sat waiting. For what?

 

Just when she’d resolve to wrap up in a blanket and surrender to sleep, a soft cooing sound echoed outside her window. She knew the sound well. It was she and Angelique’s code signal, for whenever they decided to sneak away.

 

“Grab your bag and climb out!” Angelique hissed. “Do it! And hurry up!”

 

Monique snatched up her cloth bag and climbed out of the window. “Now what?”

 

Her wild-eyed friend grinned. “Now we fly!” Grabbing Monique’s hand before she could protest, she half-dragged, half-led her to the forest beyond her hut.

 

“Have gone insane?”

 

“Shh!” Angelique cautioned her again.

 

Through the forest hidden, under the brush, was an airship. The green balloon over it added to the camouflage. It was crudely built without the intricate carvings of Haitian ships, but looked to be in working order.

 

“But how?”

 

John’s mahogany face appeared at starboard side and waved them up.

 

“We can’t do this!” Monique protested. “If they catch us they’ll kill us!”

 

“Do you want to spend the rest of your life in a cage?”  Angelique shot back. “Come on!” She clamored up the ladder with her friend at her heels.

 

“We can’t fly this thing!” Monique protested, all the while clambering the ladder onto the deck.

 

“Yes we can,” John said proudly. “I built her and Angelique can fly as well as I can!”

 

So she was telling the truth!

 

“I’m a ship captain! But I can’t marry the woman I love, because I have no money—and the color of my skin!” All the while he and Angelique were hoisting the sails.

 

Monique followed them inside to the helm, burning with excitement in spite of herself. She’d never actually walked inside an airship. In the center of the deck, was concentric hatch directly below the gathered edges of the balloon. Angelique opened the hatch to reveal a box of copper and brass, and another hole in its center, and depressions on either side.

 

She pumped the depressions and steam flowed from the box filling the balloon, while Monique and John began turning the cranks on the propellers and flaps. The ship began to rise, and Monique thought her heart would burst with joy.

 

“Here we go!” John shouted. The ships wings flapped, the propeller whirled, tearing and blowing the foliage and lifted from the ground.

 

The airship sputtered forward. “Give her more steam and turn the propellers faster!” The women grunted turning the propeller faster. “Angelique trade places with me!” Angelique took the helm, as he and Monique turned the propellers. The airship picked up speed.

 

The mulatto woman grinned. “My parents thought they could marry me off to an old man. Won’t they be surprised?”

 

“Where will we go?” Monique asked.

 

“There’s an island across the ocean, Santo Domingo,” said John. “Haiti’s armies freed the slaves there too.”

 

The glory of a parvenu life thrust upon her was slowly taking hold. She was free—free of her mother. Free of a lifetime of cages. Free to love who she chose. The Loa Erzulie had answered her prayers after all!

 

But Simone was still lost to her. A weight of sadness pressed against the walls of her new-found liberation. And there were other doubts as well. “What if they don’t want us there? How do we know it will be any better?”

 

A shadow crept from the helm, jerking Monique away from her objections—amber-colored ghosts that instantly became creatures with the head of a bat and four arms.

 

“It’s Madam Cecile’s sorcery!” John shouted. “We must have been spotted!”

 

More shades reared up at them, claws ready. They paused, clearly confused. The three friends were most certainly not French soldiers. The ghosts turned away and attacked the airship dash in earnest, ripping and tearing.

 

Another one zoomed over their heads and struck the helm and it exploded in flames. They screamed—trying to fight the creatures off and fly the ship at the same time. They began losing altitude. The ship was sinking.

 

Below them, a thick, wavering mist blocked their path. The friends eyes were drawn to it. . . they could see images dancing within the fog. . . dancing to the beat of drums that suddenly echoed in the night about them. A cooling breeze wafted toward them . . . One image came into focus. . .

 

The Loa, Erzulie.

 

Their terror vanished.

 

Without another thought they flew into the fog.

 

And out the other side.

 

The flames snuffed out and the turbulence of the airship dissipated out as they flew out of the nosedive. “Let’s land there!” Monique shouted, pointing to the beach below. As the three friends coasted into a smooth descent, their eyes widened. They recognized the Haitian shoreline.

 

“We never left home!” John exclaimed.

 

“Wait a minute,” Angelique said slowly. “When we left Haiti it was midnight. Look at the sky!” A  bright noonday sun beamed downed on them.

 

They stared at the turquoise blue waters, as if the ocean held answers. “This cannot be,” John breathed. “Have we traveled backwards in time?”

 

“Non, c’est impossible. . .” Monique breathed. “The only thing we can do is start walking. Maybe when we find town we’ll find our answers.”

 

They covered the airship with seaweed and debris as best as they could. After their strange trip they were a little afraid of it. But the friends still thought it best to protect it in case they needed to escape.

 

When they reached town they discovered they’d left Haiti only to return. But to an alien Republic.

 

They didn’t recognize the township. What was even more incredible was that in this Haiti, the revolution had taken place a month ago. No one knew them here. So, they gave a vague descriptions of a small hamlet they’d traveled from, and no one they meet seemed to care much. Monique found a job cooking for a rich, elderly woman named Michelle. John and Angelique took a job working in the sugar fields she owned.

 

Later, Monique questioned her employer about the customs of her “new home” and found out that class discrimination did not exist in Haiti—informal or otherwise. There were no restrictions upon homosexuality either. Michelle was incredulous that any Republic would have such rules. “We were once slaves, n’est-ce pas? Why would we oppress one another?” The older woman sucked her teeth, and shook her head. “That must truly be a terrible place you came from. No wonder you ran away.”

 

Monique pressed her lips together and said no more. It was my home and I loved it dearly. Now Haiti is here, yet lost to me. Perhaps forever. . .I wonder what unpleasant truths this new world holds?

 

##

 

“We’re going to stay, Monique,” said Angelique. “John and I can be together here.”

 

“What about your mama and papa?”

 

Angelique looked away. “I love them and wish them happiness. But I love John more. Perhaps one day I’ll look for them.” She shrugged. “Perhaps not.”

 

“Both my parents are dead,” the young man added. “Angelique is all the family I have now.”

 

The three were sharing a meal in the tiny house she and John had rented together. The couple had married the same week they’d landed.

 

“You should stay too,” Angelique suggested.

 

Monique had saved a little coin and was determined to search the island until she found Simone. “No, I have to find her. I have to know if she’s happy.”

 

“What will you do, cherie, if you meet her and she is happy. . . with you,” asked John. “We still know so little about this strange world, n’est-ce pas?”

 

Monique smiled. “We will become the best of friends—the three of us. I will wish her well.”

 

“And I will be back.”

 

She left the next morning to find her destiny. In the days to come, some happy, others melancholy, she thought often of the airship they’d left behind on the beach. . .

 

And whatever became of it.

THE END


Valjeanne Jeffers is a graduate of Spelman College, a member of the Carolina African American Writer’s Collective, and the author of eight books.Valjeanne was featured in 60 Black Women in Horror Fiction. Her first novel, Immortal, is featured on the Invisible Universe Documentary time-line. Her stories have been published in Reflections Literary and Arts Magazine; Steamfunk!; Griots: A Sword and Soul Anthology; Genesis Science Fiction Magazine; Griots II: Sisters of the Spear; Possibilities; and The City.Book I of The Switch II: Clockwork was nominated for the best ebook novella of 2013 (eFestival of Words); and her short story Awakening was published as a podcast by Far Fetched Fables. Preview or purchase Valjeanne’s novels at: Valjeanne Jeffers official site

HorrorAddicts.net Flashback – Holiday Horror

Our very first episode with holiday horror was Michele Roger’s Santa Claws, way back on episode #13. That episode has been locked in the vault ever since we switched to Libsyn… BUT! We have uncovered the show!

#13 Michele Roger, Santa Claws

There are several other holiday-related shows I am going to post here in case you need some HorrorAddicts.net Holiday fun.

#52 Jack Mangan, Holiday Horror Theme

“Jack Mangan’s Santa Thing is a great read/listen for horror Xmas tales.” ~ Dan Shaurette

#53 Cal Miller, Holiday Horror Theme

“Cal Miller’s Scary Santa is just the thing to make you rethink the big red guy.” ~ Emerian Rich

WWW Challenge Special – Holiday Horror Challenge

 “It never ceases to amaze me how great a job these women do with holiday horror!” ~Rhonda R. Carpenter

Batty for Bats – No, Really!

Batty for Bats – No, Really!

By Kristin Battestella

 

 

I knew I couldn’t stay for the whole program, but when the Free Public Library of Monroe Township posted about a special presentation called Batty for Bats, well I knew I had to take a gander!

Ms. Mary, a naturalist from the Rancocas Nature Center, 794 Rancocas Road, Westhampton, NJ 08060, quizzed local children at the library on what they knew about bats and tested them with some true or false statements. When I asked Ms. Mary if the kids attending these programs were usually creeped out, she said that the snakes and reptiles were actually quite popular – and the youths tonight agreed that bats were “cool.” After all, bats groom themselves just like cats do!

The children – and let’s be honest the parents there, too – were curious to see some of the bat materials on display. Facts on bats such as wing span and heartbeats per minute were hit home for the kids by donning some costume wings to test their own wing spans and putting on stethoscopes to hear their own heartbeats in a “How a Bat Compares to Me” activity. Everyone had a good laugh while learning the basics about bats from Ms. Mary – who confessed to not actually being a bat expert because she prefers bugs.

Based in Burlington County within the 200 acre Rancocas Park and formerly part of the New Jersey Audubon Society, The Rancocas Nature Center puts on a variety of nature and educational programs in South Jersey. For more information, visit rancocasnaturecenter.org or follow facebook.com/FriendsofRNC to support their programs.

 

And no, there are no vampire bats in New Jersey, thanks for asking.

 

A very special Thank You to Ms. Mary, the Rancocas Nature Center, and the Monroe Library for allowing me to stop by the program and take a few pictures!

Free Fiction: The Lost Tapes by James Goodridge

The Lost Tapes

(c) 2017 by James Goodridge

“I need more time Ross,” pleaded Sully Grunwald, phone in one hand, 32oz Burger King cup half filled with Old Taylor and slowly melting ice in the other. On the other end of the taunt conversation was Laird Ross. A Merit was burning itself out in an ashtray.

 

“Look you old Grunge rock fool. I’ve given you more than enough time to find the tapes. I can’t hold off my people any longer on this investment.

 

The studio has to be demolished so my high rises can go up, time is money in Manhattan. Stop shitting on me bro.” said Ross. The tapes mentioned well a holy grail of the jazz world. Azure Crenshaw’s lost tapes were last seen in 1979, the night Crenshaw walked out of legendary Sound Cave studios on West 52st. He and the tapes disappearing off of the face of the earth.

 

“Please Ross I’ve made progress. I’ve found a cracked wall in the vault, it looks hollow on the other side,”said Sully a silver haired, slim bodied man sitting on a recliner in a tattered New York football Giants bath robe; the lone glow in his living room ESPN on his HD. Over the decades Sully was the go to man for creating audio  music master pieces in all genres,But now in retirement he needed cash to live right. Atlantic City black jack tables had screwed up his savings .

 

“Listen I don’t have time for this MC rap boy Sully. Plus who the hell listens to jazz these days anyway?” said Ross with the constant music genre belittling of the old man.

 

“Why you son of…Listen Mr. Ross, let me explain this to you again, Crenshaw at the time of his disappearance in 1979 was a icon in the jazz world like Miles Davis. You are old enough to have heard of Miles right?” the question was forlorn but Sully asked anyway.

 

“No disco dude.” said Ross to which if Sully could see his millennial indifferent shrug trough the phone he would have punch Ross. Thank god Sully knew nothing about Skype.

 

“At the time of his disappearance Crenshaw was a jazz icon, the tracks I helped him lay down were going to change jazz which was a crossroad. Take it to another level.” Ross listened to Sully while Googling the information on Crenshaw, found it impressed him. Ross smelled money.

 

Sully continued. “The day he stepped out of Sound Cave he was to bring the master tapes to GRT records, but when he didn’t show up GRT was pissed off, and  after so many years GRT folded, the police made  Crenshaw a cold case, and his family had him declared legally dead after so many years. His official work is in public domain no estate. That’s why I need more time.” Sully sensed the hedge fund and real estate mogul must be doing research while they talked. One thing Sully did know was Google. “I got him,” he thought, flipping the bird to the phone in the semi-darkness of his New Jersey home.

 

“Okay heavy metal bro you’ve got two more days. And that’s it!” Cutting off the phone conversation Ross hoped the old fart would deliver.

***

After so many impatient knocks on green tinted glass doors taped over with New York city construction permit notices Sully unlocked the doors to let a frowning young man in a gray single breasted suit, blue open collared shirt, and blond man bun atop his head in.

 

“All right soul man where’s it at?” asked Ross, looking at his Rolex.

 

“Hey, for Christ’s sake can’t you call me Sully?” asked Sullivan H. Grunwald in a wrinkled olive suit under it a black AC/DC tee shirt.

 

“Okay SULLY. Let’s just keep this moving,” said Ross snatching the flash light offered to him out of Sully’s hand.

 

“Follow me. Keep your flash light on the floor at times, the workman have already pulled up some of the carpet,” warned Sully. Leading the business man through the lobby to a door which in turn led to a circular area almost like a second lobby, doors colored and labeled studios: green, pink, ocher, and amber, studios that helped recording artists earn gold and platinum records over the decades; now just a ghost of their musical past. Between pink and amber studios were a bland red door leading to the basement.

“How far down does this stairway go funky man sorry SULLY?” Ross wasn’t uneasy about the tightness of the stairway like Sully but had to wonder how deep down was the basement. Dim neon lights descending like them down the stairways ceiling helped their flash lights. “We’re here,” said Sully.

 

The vault wasn’t a vault but a glorified storage room, yet solid enough to hold a poor soul prisoner in it for an eternity.

 

“Bingo, bango, bongo, Ross there they are!” laughed Sully pointing the beam from his flashlight to a hole in a wall four feet by four feet at the end of the room. In front of the small abyss was an old wooden milk create with a Gold Medal Milk logo stenciled on the sides. Inside the long defunct milk company create wrapped in dusty plastic were six TDK reel to reel boxes labeled in sharpie black pen: A. Crenshaw Sound Cave sessions 1978-1979. Yes Bing, bango, bongo was right.

 

“You can go look them over if you like, then we can bring them up to the green studio, I have a reel to reel deck hooked up in there we can sample Crenshaw and I’s masterwork. Azure’s rendition of Sonny and Monk’s ‘Friday the 13th‘ is a killer diller,” beamed Sully, Old Taylor on his breath.

 

“Analog man what do you mean Crenshaw and you? You had Jack bone shit to do with those tapes except turn knobs when he told you to or fetch coffee, maybe a pint of wine,” chuckled Ross. “Plus this is on my property. MY PROPERTY. I tell you what I’ll give you a nice wavy fee for this.”

 

It was then and there both men surmised that a change in plans were in order. Sully’s change was to kill Ross and seal him up in the wall and sell the master tapes and Ross’s change was to tie Sully up in the courts over ownership, until the old bastard croaked. Sully raised his flashlight to come down on Ross’s head, but Ross quickly side stepped him. Flash lights dropped as both men dropped to the floor in a death struggle. Ross’s youth and sadistic force versus Sully’s adrenaline fueled rage. Flash lights rolled around the dusty floor, as a punch from Sully made blood squirt out from Ross’s nose, but Ross threw a fist to Sully’s left jaw, making the old studio worker howl.

 

“What bro what?! Your dentures loose?! I was going to tie you up in court until you became worm food, but now I think you’ll fit nice in that whole back there you old punk rock turd.” Ross straddling Sully on the floor wiped his crimson leaking nose with his suit sleeve while debating whether to continue pummeling Sully or strangle the life out of him. Sully ended Ross’s debate by blindsiding him on  his right temple with one of the flashlights. The sound of the blow cracked like a ball coming off a ball players bat going yard. The man bun Ross wore came loose as he pitched forward on top of Sully dead.

 

“How ya like me now?! K-pop boy!” Sully wheezed at the lifeless Ross as he pushed him off, then staggered up to stand using a blood spattered metal shelf to brace himself. Digging in his blood and dusted suit pocket he pulled out a soft pack of Merits and after flinging a few broken cigarettes out the pack, one found a Merit still intact to smoke. “Just couldn’t put a filter on your mouth Ross could you!” wheezed Sully.

 

“Yo! Still bogarting credit for shit I created Sully?” came a voice.

 

“Screw you Ross!” yelled Sully at Ross’s corpse before realizing there was a third person in the vault the limited flashlight beams showed a shadow moving about.

 

“Who’s… Aaww I know who. I’m not scared of you Azure. Been a while since we last talked.” Sully tried to be fearless but his hand shook, orange embers from his Merit, flying on to his olive suit and down on Ross’s body gave him away.

 

Dragging himself into the light was Azure Crenshaw. Afro and sideburns specter gray from cement and sheetrock dust. Skin once smooth mocha brown,now greenish brown and slowly sliding off his facial bones; mushy in texture. A dark spot on Crenshaw’s right temple showed where Sully cracked his skull open with a silver ashtray forty-two years ago during an argument over a raise and more acknowledgment credits on an album cover. A tattered white three-piece suit hung limply off the missing cold case victim.

 

“You didn’t want to list me as producer Azure.” Sully backed away and up against a wall.

 

“For what damn it! I was the one playing sax not you! Listen Grunwald right about now yo’ ass is grass. Yo’ got a dead man on the floor yo’ ass got’s to explain. And yo’ done went and opened up the wall where yo’ had my damn body buried damn it. All these years yo’ went around like shit ain’t wrong. Baby doll Ms. Grunwald had to push you out hard at birth cause yo’ balls was so big.I could do yo’ ass in right now, just like in those horror comics my bass player Chucky Briscoe read between takes back then, but nah son it will be too easy on yo’ ass. I have a plans for you Sully.” By now Sullivan H. Grunwald had slid down the side of the wall and was sitting; he was a haunted wreck. Azure sat down next to him a placing a ghoulish hand on Sully’s knee. Sully shuddered.

 

Once the legal battles ended, Laird Ross’s disappearance was turning the corner into a cold case. The “Azure Crenshaw Lost Sessions” reinvigorated the jazz world. People with no knowledge of jazz at all purchased downloads just to be trendy. Collectors scrambled for the CD and vinyl box sets. Sully parleyed his success into a move down to a nice bungalow down in Key West.

 

“So what do I do now?” Sully looked as if he was conversing with himself in the bathroom mirror of his Key West bungalow. He waited for Azure’s decayed rancid breath reply to emulate from his own mouth. Neighbors started to wonder about the new neighbor, who mumbled to himself and how one minute he has minty fresh breath and the next minute he needs a breath mint; in fact a fist full of breath mints. “I hate this polyester suit nothing for nothing, you know,” said Sully in the white three piece.

 

“You don’t know style, my man. Now we go to step two.” Azure’s image was behind Sully to the left in the mirror.

 

“Step two?” Sully stopped thinking about suicide long ago since Azure was right there in his head.

 

“Listen, Mr. Funk, Texas two-step, house music, ska, bluegrass man. You’re going to help me get my hedge fund back!” said the decomposing head of Laird Ross held forth by Crenshaw, made courtesy of Sully’s body disposal work, grinned from behind Sully’s mirrored right shoulder.


Born and raised in the Bronx, James is new to writing speculative fiction. After ten years as an artist representative and paralegal James decided in 2013 to make a better commitment to writing.jamesgoodridge headshotCurrently, he is writing a series of short “Twilight Zone” inspired stories from the world of art, (The Artwork) and a diesel/punkfunk saga (Madison Cavendish/Seneca Sue Mystic Detectives) with the goal of producing compelling stories

Free Fiction Wednesday: Last Stand by J. C. Eickelberg 3/3

Last Stand
Part 3/3 – the end

By: J. C. Eickelberg

3rd part of an exciting 3-part story inspired by and in remembrance of the great George Romero.

The survivors ran toward their cars.  Emily and Barb sprinted forward, leading the pack as they went.  Brando stayed at the back motivating the slower runners.  Harry ran to the building, grabbed a forgotten shovel and ran back toward Brando.  The shovel went up as he ran, then arched down.  Brando went around Harry, pushing one of Emily’s friends along.  A meaty thwack and a grunt got Brando to turn.  Harry swung again at the prone figure.  Another smashed melon sound echoed off the building.

“Stay down,” Harry spat.  A hand twitched.  “Stop already.”  He swung again and the shovel broke.  The figure stopped moving

“You killed him,” Brando said.

“Nope,” Harry said.  “Was already dead.”  He was breathing hard.  He pointed the broken handle at the gaping chest wound the corpse had.

“We need to go.  Now!” Brando said.

Harry drove the broken handle into the ground through the corpse’s chest wound as if it were a vampire.

“No, we’re not,” Emily said.  “The gate’s locked.”

A look of horror washed over Harry’s face.  “That can’t be.  The lock’s broke.  It wasn’t locked when we got here.”

“Nope.  It’s locked now,” Barb verified.  She pulled and rattled the locked gate.

“Any other gates we can use?” Brando asked.

“This is always the last one locked,” Harry answered.  “Whoever fixed the lock didn’t tell me.  It’s been broke since last winter.”

“Do you have any keys for the gate?” Brando asked.  Harry shook his head.  “What about the building?  We need to get inside.”

Harry answered with movement to the building.  His hand went to a pocket to get a key.  Emily and Brando watched for any dead walkers moving their way.  The rest waited for the door to open.  Rusty hinges motivated them into motion.  Harry was swept through the opening.  Brando pulled the door shut and locked it.

Barb found the breakroom.  She fell on a worn couch and shook.  Her friends paced, worrying about what happened.  Lights came on, giving more illumination than the emergency lights.  Harry sank into an overstuffed chair, rattled by what happened to his friends.  Brando and Emily fell to their combat training to secure the building.  They moved efficiently through each room.  A nearby maintenance bay had a door with a window.  This last door to be checked was found locked.  They looked out to see an empty parking lot.  Light from the flashlight moved with them.  All locks had been verified locked.  Turning back to join their friends, they didn’t expect the door to rattle.  A shadow appeared outside.  A light above the door showed a vacant set of eyes.  Emily and Brando watched the figure briefly.  It didn’t see them.  They faded into the shadows and made their way back to the others.

“They’re knocking on the door,” Brando said.

“Shit.  We’re stuck here,” Harry said.  “We’re in serious trouble now.”

“Do you have a phone here?” Barb asked.  “Maybe we can call the police?”

“Already tried.  They’re swamped with calls,” Harry said, rejected.  “Let’s stay here and keep calling.  This building is locked and secure as a mausoleum.”

“Hopefully not our mausoleum,” Barb said.  She was more depressed than Harry.

“Cheer up.  They need to get in to do anything to us.”  Harry offered Barb a smile.  She smiled back.  “I know this building.  I work here, remember?”

“And you’d know about getting out of here.  Right?”  Brando gave him a piercing look.

“Don’t give me that look.  I’m not brain dead,” Harry quipped.

“Then prove it.  You’re not shambling like them,” Emily said, pointing down the hall.  “Yet.”  Her look wasn’t far from vicious.

They settled in the breakroom and listened to the radio.

“This is the top of the hour news.  Reports have come in about groups moving around the city dressed as zombies.  Accidents are clogging streets from people walking into traffic.  Police have their hands full dealing them.  We ask people to stay on sidewalks and look both ways before crossing the street…”

Static garbled words as the station changed.

“Reporters on the scene have reported groups roaming through parks.  They have seen people dressed for a zombie party…”

Another station was tuned in.

“People have reported an unruly party at The Fire Alarm.  Party goers have relocated to St. George’s Necropolis Cemetery…”  The sound faded as another station was searched for.

“Keep it on that station,” Harry said.

“Why?” Emily asked.

“That’s where we are. The Fire Alarm is across the street.”

Emily turned back to the station.

“Reports are coming in about people being attacked in the cemetery.  Police have been alerted to graves being vandalized and mausoleums being broken into…”

“Broken into, my ass.  People have been breaking out.  There’s more dead walking than living out there.”  Harry paced with his hands on the side of his head.

“This just in.  The National Guard has been called in to help control unruly crowds.”  Emily and Brando looked at each other.  “Use of force has been authorized.  Police Chief Reynolds has declared all groups to disband and go home.  A curfew is now in effect.  Anyone found outside will be arrested and fined.

“Once again, a curfew has been implemented and the National Guard has been brought in to help disperse crowds.  Police and guardsmen are authorized to respond with force if they are attacked.”

Emily turned the radio down.  She stood surveying the room.

“Well that says we stay here,” Brando said.

“We can’t go anywhere, anyhow,” Harry said.  “The gates are locked and we can’t get to our cars to go anyplace else.”

“Good.  If we’re not going anywhere, I need to use the bathroom,” one of Emily’s friend said.

“I saw it before.  I’ll show you,” Emily said.  They walked out.  “I want to check the windows and doors again.”

“Do you think we’ll get out of here, Emily?”

“Yes, we will, Brenda,” she answered, showing more confidence than she felt.  “This building is strong enough to stand against storms.  What’re a few zombies leaning on doors?”

“Then why check on them?” Brenda asked.

“I’m too wound up to sit still.  I need to do something.”  Emily waited as Brenda used the bathroom.

“Would you mind some company checking the doors?” Brenda asked.

“Not at all.  Why?”  Emily led her away from the breakroom.

“Harry is driving me crazy.  He’s too high strung to be around.”

“Brenda, you’ve said the same thing about Barb,” Emily said.  “You still hang out with her.”

“At least she knows and does something positive about it.  Like running with you,” Brenda said, smiling.  “Harry’s really wound up about what’s going on out there.”

“This is where he works,” Emily said, giving Brenda a hard look.  “This whole place is trashed.”  Brenda relented.

Emily went to the side door they used to get inside.  It was still locked.  Brenda peeked out through the window in the door before following Emily to the maintenance bays.  Emily looked out windows in the garage doors.  She stopped and stared out.  Shambling forms moved around the parking lot.  Nothing moved toward the building.  She sighed in relief.

Brenda screamed and threw a wrench across the service bay.  Emily locked a savage glare at her friend.

“God, I hate rats,” Brenda said.  She saw Emily and covered her mouth.  “I’m sorry.”  Wide eyes shimmered, ready to spill tears.

“What’s going on?”  Harry came running in.  Brando close behind.

“It would’ve been nice knowing you have rats in the building,” Emily declared, looking at Harry.  Her remark included Harry.  She moved purposefully away from the door.  Seeing the scuff in the floor, she tracked the course of the wrench.  Next to a garbage can sat a bloody wrench and a twitching rat.  A quick hit and the rat was dispatched.  “All that pitching softballs paid off.  Good shot, Brenda.”  She went to ease her friend’s stress from making noise when silence would have been better.

Harry came over with a shovel and took care of moved the rat into the can.

“We just heard on the radio buzzards and vultures are affected, too.  Who’s to say rats aren’t?”  Harry pointed out.

“I smacked it good,” Emily said.  The can rattled.  Harry picked up a brick off a pallet of loose masonry remnants.  He lifted the lid and looked in.  He launched the brick, looked in again and smiled.

“So, did I.  Now it’s not moving,” Harry said, satisfied.

“That won’t work for what’s out there,” Brando said.  He stood by the door.  “There’s about fifty zombies out here.  And they’re coming this way.”

Both doors for the service bays rattled with impacts from the horde outside.  The door shook again as another wave of bodies moved through the glow of the yard light.  By the sound of the door, it wasn’t going to stay intact.

“We’re so screwed,” Harry said.

The small door creaked, but held firm against the crowd.  The two big doors on either side flexed as more bodies pushed against them.  Brando moved along the wall of tools looking for options.  Emily saw this and joined him.  Shovels, lengths of pipe and a couple of wrenches were confiscated.

“What’s this used for?” Brenda asked.

“That’s a mattock.  Used to dig trenches with the hoe side and cut roots with the axe side,” Brando said.  He took it, implement end up and tapped it on the floor.  The metal end slide to the floor with a clang.  “Now it’s a bat.  Go to town, Slugger.”  She swung a practice swing and smiled.  “Good.  Keep it going down range.”

“Don’t stand behind her.  Her back swing is killer,” Emily stated.

“Noted,” Brando said.  “Harry, are there any trucks in the bays on the other side of the building that work?”

“An old pickup.  Runs rough, but will move.”

“It better.  We’re getting out of here,” Brando said.

“We won’t make it through all of them,” Brenda said.

“We only need to out distance them,” Emily said.  A long pipe wrench in one hand.  She wielded it effortlessly.  “All we need to do is keep them off the truck as we pick up speed.”

“Harry, get the keys.  Emily, let’s get everyone to the truck,” Brando said.

They went to the breakroom and gathered everyone together.  The group came out as Harry left the supervisor’s office with a set of keys.  He led the group to the other end of the building.  The lights flickered on as Harry flipped the switches.  In the nearest bay was a pick up with a dump box insert loaded with dirt.

“This won’t work,” Brando declared.

“The pickup is on the other side,” Harry said.  He walked behind the dump truck and looked out a window.  He tossed his shovel in the bed of the truck.

“Damn, man.  I’d rather take the dump truck.  This rust bucket is ready to fall apart,” Brando spat.  Emily and the other ladies looked at the dented, rusty relic that was old when they were playing with dolls.

“That dump truck has two flat tires and is slow as a snail.  We might as well walk out of here,” Harry said from the front seat.  Keys jingled and a whiny buzzer sounded.  “Get in.”

“I’m not climbing up there with a skirt on,” Barb said.

“Get in front,” Brando said opening the other front door.  “I’ll get the garage door open.”

“Don’t open it yet.  I want to make sure it starts,” Harry said as Barb pulled the door closed.

“I’m expecting to get out of here alive,” Barb declared.  Her large eyed expression locked on Harry.

“If you don’t, you won’t have far to go to find a place to rest,” Harry said as the truck turned over.  It gave a few anemic pops and shuttered to life.  “Now be quiet and hang on.”

Brando hit a button and hopped onto the truck.  No one shambled around anywhere in sight.  The truck moved out into the night, slowly gaining speed.

“Can’t this go faster?”

“There’s a reason this heap rarely leaves the cemetery.  We’re still going faster than they are,” Harry responded.  A group came from the side of the narrow road.

Brenda swung and connected.  The crack of a skull sounded over the noise of the truck.  Emily caved in another skull.  Gore clung in the jaws of the wrench.

“Just barely,” Brenda stated.

“Get out and walk then,” Harry shot back.  “Otherwise shut up and let me get you through a gate.”  The truck lurched over two obstacles in the road.  “Two less for you to swing at.”

“Just don’t hit a tree or tombstone.  I want to get home,” Barb complained.

“Front door service for the pretty lady.”  Harry smiled at her.

“Shut up and drive, Harry,” Barb said.  “Maybe I’ll give you a kiss when I’m home.”

“Don’t expect to get a prince from that frog, Princess,” Brenda muttered.  Another swing and a hit.

“I get first dibs if he grabs for her,” Emily said, as the truck made a turn.

“I’ll make sure he stays down,” Brenda said.

They made a gentle turn around a large plot.  A gradual arc brought the shed into view.  Everyone voiced their opinions about going into the group of zombies.  Thumps and crunching announced less batting practice.  Speed gave Harry reason to be happy.  The old truck hit the gate with a satisfying crash.

“So long, George,” Brando yelled.  “Don’t forget to stay dead.”

Everyone hooted and hollered as they left the cemetery behind.  Lights blazed in the shed as shadows moved around the now quiet parking lot.  Scratching came from the roof as vultures settled next to other roosting birds.  One gave out a garbled croak.

“Shut your trap.  You missed out on your meal,” George scolded the vulture.  “I’ve got mine.”  He held Harvey’s head by the hair.  Harvey’s eyes locked into an upward gaze, as if looking at his savior.

***

Harry drove down streets normally busy, even at this hour of the night.  Few cars moved to slow their progress.  Occasional police cars could be heard down side streets.  One screamed past them, lights painting everything red and blue.  Barb pointed directions to the address she shared with Emily.  Outside a modest brownstone was a rare parking spot.  Parked, and drawing no attention from unwanted undead pedestrians, they started disembarking.  The truck sputtered and chugged after the key was turned to the off position.  It gasped and backfired.  Harry pointed at Barb’s door as Emily got out of the bed of the truck.  Emily opened the door and pulled her sister out.  Brando offered a gentlemanly hand to help Brenda off the truck.  She smiled and left a hand on his arm a little longer than necessary.

“Let’s go, love birds,” Harry said following Emily up the stairs.  She had the door open, waiting for them.  Brenda smiled at Brando and went up.  Emily had a quick thought of sadness.  She’d hoped for a bit of romance with him.  Everyone else was already inside waiting.

“You touch me and I’ll leave you out here,” Brenda told Harry.

“What’s up with you?” he asked her back.

“She doesn’t like you,” Brando said.  “Maybe it’s your choice in beds.”  He gave his friend a smartass smirk.

“Bite me,” he said.  Brando glared at him from two steps up, his gaze cold as ice.

“Any other night that’d be funny,” Brando said.  His hand tightened on the discolored mattock handle.

“Sorry,” Harry said, shoulders slumped.

Harry shuffled inside after the ladies.  Brando scanned the street and under vehicles.  All remained quiet.  The truck ticked as it cooled.  He turned to go in as a flapping of wings caught his attention.  A vulture landed on the square masonry post at the bottom of the steps.  The mattock handle made a soft whistle as he swung at the bird.  It exploded on impact with the hickory handle.

“Creepy ass bird,” Brando said, dancing up the stairs.

“Nice swing,” Brenda said.

“I was on a NCAA championship baseball team in college.  I coach a community team now,” he said.

They settled into talking once the door locked behind them.  The truck wasn’t going anywhere.  Brando told about a rapidly growing puddle under it.  He was soon talking with Brenda on the couch.  Harry and Barb were chatting amicably on stools at a kitchen counter.  Emily tuned in a news channel for updates about the zombie hordes.

“So, what about this kiss you mentioned earlier for getting you home?” Harry asked.

“I said maybe,” Barb reminded him.  “There was no guarantee offered.”

“I’ll second that,” Emily said.  Her cold gaze settled on him.  She placed the pipe wrench between them.  It rested on the counter in front of them with gore still embedded in the jaws.  “I’m no stranger to working on pipes.”  Warmth drained out of Harry as he became aware of Emily’s meaning.

A knock on the front door ended their conversation.  Harry swallowed hard as he watched Emily move to answer the door.  A sigh of relief escaped him as he turned back to Barb.  Relaxed, he offered a warm smile for Barb.  She was cleaning what she could out of the jaws of the wrench with a dish towel.

“She doesn’t clean off tools as well as I do,” Barb said, a half smile on her face.  He watched with the realization Barb was familiar with using the wrench.

Emily peered out the peep hole.  Uniformed soldiers stood outside.  Recognition registered and she opened the door.  Soldiers oozed through the narrow opening.  Four soldiers went through the lower level, then upper level in practiced cadence.  The most weathered soldier remained at her side as locks were engaged again.

“What’s up, Top?” she asked.

“Been trying to get a hold of you, Ma’am.  We’ve been activated,” he said.  “We came by to make sure you’re okay.”  His southern accent said he was a pleasant man, but his cold blue gaze scanning the room demanded a no bullshit response from anyone.

“I’ve been out.  Kind of an exciting night,” she said walking back to join her sister.

“So, you know what’s going on?”

“We just came from St. George’s Necropolis Cemetery,” Brando said, following them into the kitchen.

“Barb and Harry, can you keep Brenda company?” Emily said.  She had a commanding demeanor about her now, matching the blue-eyed senior enlisted man following her

“Sure,” she said.  The wrench was clean and went with her.

“Ma’am?” Brando asked.

“First Sergeant Grumman, this is Brando,” Emily said.

“Marlon Brando?” First Sergeant asked, a bit of humor to ease the tension.

“Staff Sergeant Miller, Marine Corps,” Brando responded.  His relaxed, night out posture evaporated.  His military bearing shown through his civilian attire.  “Six years active duty, now in the reserves, Top.”

“Thought so,” Top said, giving him a once over.  “Hope you don’t mind hanging with some army pukes.”  A statement.

“We all wear green and bleed red.  Have a common target.”  Brando heard a grunt come from the weathered, sharp eyed enlisted leader as he turned to check on his men.  “I don’t mind one bit.”

“He likes you, Marine,” Emily said, looking up from a message on her phone.  “Be right back.  I have to change.”

A few greetings came from the soldiers as she passed.  Brando went out to check on Harry.  He sat talking with Barb, giving her a respectful distance, and a friendly look at the wrench.  Brenda was shoulder to shoulder with a soldier at the window.  She turned to look at Brando when the minutes lengthened in the silence.  Movement down the hall got Brando’s attention.

“Brando.  You can put your eyes back in your head,” Brenda said.  “If she catches you drooling, she’ll clean the floor with you.”  The soldier next to her watched him, in a friendly manner.  Their resemblance was unmistakable.  Brother and sister, he thought.

“I’d believe it,” he said.  He gave Brenda a friendly smile.

“She’s cleaned a few clocks with a pugil stick,” Top said matter-of-factly.  He watched Brando.  The no bullshit, blue eyed stare was back.

“Captain on deck,” one soldier chimed.

“This is war, gentlemen, no saluting, and no messes in my house if you can help it.”  She looked at all present.  The uniform enhanced her military attitude.  Her hair was tightly pulled back and off her collar.  “Captain Morgan to you now.”  She looked from Brando to Harry.  A finger went up.  “Either one of you makes a crack and you’ll look like vulture outside.”  Her manner was professional soldier now.  Her look was equal to First Sergeant Grumman’s.  Cold and businesslike.

Harry shrunk away from her, fear stained his face.  The wrench let him know how far to go.  Brando accepted the statement.

“We finished the vulture off for you.”

“We, First Sergeant?”

“Sergeant Stutzgard finished it,” Top said.

“That thing disintegrated when I hit it,” Brando stated.

“The head tried to bite me,” Stutzgard said.  “Sorry about the floor mat, ma’am.”

“That’s what it’s there for, Stutz,” she reassured him.  “First Sergeant, catch me up.”  He gave her the condensed version, filling her in on the official side.  Military was playing clean up with the zombies while the police tried to keep order with the citizens.  Everyone wearing a uniform wasn’t confident about the odds offered by higher ups.

Hours passed as reports came in about more hordes claiming the streets.  Cars were wrecked trying to run through zombie mobs.  Emily kept her guests comfortable as she managed her unit’s progress through the city.  Mobs of zombies followed groups down her street.  Weapons were kept inside and on safe.  Her military guests maintained a vigil watching front and back doors.  Radios they carried squawked, reports from others in their company filtering in kept information fresh.  First Sergeant Grumman’s second radio chirped.  Captain Morgan watched him respond.  They made eye contact.  A head nod confirmed the need to find a quiet corner.

He responded to the command frequency.  The report he received verified news reports.  Despite law enforcement and military efforts, zombies were overwhelming road blocks.  Increased numbers of zombies proved the curfew was enacted too late, or not heard by enough people.  The final statement chilled them.

“All units go to a secure location and get into an underground room.  Mission Neutron is on standby.  Go time in five minutes.  Report locations and sign off.  Power down all electronics.  Repeat.  Mission Neutron in T minus five minutes.  Get to secure locations.  Report coordinates and power down.  One hour from mission completion report in.  Command out.”

Captain Morgan looked scared.  First Sergeant Grumman looked grimmer than usual.  He closed his eyes and sighed heavily.

“Do you have a basement?” he asked.  He noted the time on his watch.  A trusty windup model.

“A wine cellar with no windows.  Middle of the basement,” she said.

“Excellent.  Get everyone there.  Close all doors on the way,” he stated.  “Go.”

T minus four minutes.

Captain Morgan gathered everyone and Barb lead them to the basement.  Questions were asked as they went.  No answers were given as everyone shuffled to the wine cellar.

T minus three minutes.

First Sergeant Grumman and Captain Morgan made a final pass through the house.  At the highest point he reported his location and signed off.  Hope was held out for seeing the end of the hour.

T minus two minutes.

Top felt like the last survivor of the Normandy invasion.  Looking out a window, he saw the faintest light glowing on the eastern horizon.  In the street a ragged group moved down the middle of the street with a familiar leader.

“You had your fun, George.  We’ll continue to love your movies,” he whispered.  “Time to go back to bed.”  A leer chased the statement.

His stride sounded loud in the empty hall.  Even paces let the others know his approach was purposeful.  Nothing followed him but dust caught in his wake.  Two heavy doors closed behind him as he joined is fellow survivors in the basement.

T minus one minute.

“Pushing your luck, First Sergeant?” Captain Morgan asked from the top of the basement stairs.

“Just making sure we had no visitors.”

“Anything?”  She led him down the steps.

“Just a parade of cadavers,” he said.  Gallows humor got him a few uncertain looks.  “You had orders to get down stairs.”

“I’m the captain of this ship.  Last one down.”  First Sergeant Grumman grinned at her levity.  He couldn’t argue with his commanding officer in her own home.

“What’s going on?” Barb asked.  Her eyes pleaded with her sister.  The quiver in her voice spoke to everyone’s concern.

“A solution to our problem. This is our safest place to be,” Emily said, giving her sister a caring look.  Everyone accepted the tone as comforting as refugees could.  No other details were offered.  Nothing else was asked for.

***

Outside, masses of undead moved around looking for more victims.  Crows cawed at movements surrounding deserted meals.  Glowing cat’s eyes simmered as they waited for an early morning meal to run out of a hiding place.  An occasional chirp sounded, welcoming the sun to rise over the horizon.  Thirty thousand feet overhead, a much larger bird flew through the clouds.

A light in the belly of the plane turned green.  Over the sound of the engines hydraulic pumps came alive.  The floor opened to let in cold air.  Klaxons sounded alerting the crew to be attentive.  Five seconds later the 10,000-pound cargo dropped out of the open doors.  The doors closed and the pilot advanced the throttles to full.  Free of its load, the plane raced to meet the sunrise at maximum speed.

Thirty seconds after the plane accelerated away, noonday brilliance ignited over the city.  Clouds were pushed ahead of the pressure wave and heat melted the rest.  Every surface was bathed in light as the flash expanded.

Chirps and caws stopped as birds fell to the ground.  Cats, blinded by the flash, never moved to catch another meal.  A vulture sitting on a concrete post in front of a modest townhouse fell to the sidewalk next to a splattering of feathers.  A beat up pickup truck from St. George’s Necropolis Cemetery sat at the curb, still oozing fluids onto the street.  The street was littered with a carpet of corpses.  All as inanimate as the truck.

An hour later the door of the townhouse opened silently.  Sergeant Stutzgard led the enlisted men out.  Rifle barrels swept across the steps, then the street as they came out.  One soldier nudged the vulture at the bottom of the steps.  First Sergeant Grumman and Captain Morgan stepped out.  He was grim, weary of what occurred the night before.  She stood regal and imposing, ready to start a new day.

“All clear,” came the soldier on the sidewalk.

“All clear in the street,” Sergeant Stutzgard said from the truck.

“What the hell?” Brando exclaimed, looking around the quiet neighborhood.

“It’s a new day in a brave new world, Marine,” First Sergeant Grumman said.  “We just have a little clean up to do.”  He hoped Oppenheimer wasn’t rolling over in his grave after the endgame maneuver.

THE END


J.C. works and lives in Wisconsin.  He has a beautiful wife and two active boys.  He enjoys spending time with family, reading, and, time permitting, writing.  Haunted and spooky places have always intrigued him.

Free Fiction Sunday: Last Stand by J. C. Eickelberg 2/3

Last Stand
Part 2/3

By: J. C. Eickelberg

Second part of an exciting 3-part story inspired by and in remembrance of the great George Romero.

Emily and Barb conferred with their friends.  They quickly agreed.  Everyone found room in the cars.  Finding enough parking close to the party was tricky.  They found an open gate near the cemetery’s maintenance shed and equipment buildings.  One of Brando’s friends was an assistant manager to the groundskeeper there and knew about a faulty lock on the gate and how to make it look secure.  The walk to the renovated fire station was half a block from the gate.

“Harry, is your boss working a crew tonight digging a grave?” Harvey asked.

“No.  Why?” Harry asked.

“Sounds like something’s going on over there.”  Harvey pointed up a rise in the landscape.

“Harvey, you need to get your ears checked,” Harry said.  “Maybe a hearing aid to go with those Coke bottle glasses.”

“Shut up.  At least I don’t sleep in a coffin,” Harvey stated.

“Don’t knock it till you try.  They’re actually pretty comfortable.”

“He’s right, Harry.  Something’s going on,” Emily said.  “Sounds like a party.”

Harry sighed, exaggerated.  “I’m tired of picking up after those parties.”

“Free booze if we bust it up,” Harvey declared.  “We could break up the party and take their stuff.  Party here in the shed until the start of the party at The Fire Alarm.”

“Wouldn’t that mean you’re as sick as them for partying in a cemetery?” Brando asked.

“We’d be in a building, not a mausoleum.  Right?”  Harvey said.

“Fair enough,” Brando said.  He looked around the group, silently posing the idea.  Everyone had reservations about going into a graveyard at night.

“I can’t pass up free drinks,” Harry said.  “What about you, Carl?”

“No cover charge here.  And free alcohol,” Carl piped up cheerily.  “I’m in.”

“As long as you clean up after yourself,” Harry said.  “The party at The Fire Alarm doesn’t start for half an hour.  We could have a little pre-party.”

Brando looked at Emily and Barb.  “You mind hanging out in the shed for a bit?  It actually has a decent breakroom.”  Their friends nodded in agreement.

“Sure,” Barb said.  “My feet are aching from our run this afternoon.”

“Don’t play that card.  You’ve had harder dance practices,” Emily said.  She remembered hearing about Barb’s hours long practice for her performances.

“At least I can dance,” Barb quipped.  She smiled and pirouetted.  Emily silently mouthed a mimicry of Barb and smirked.  The smirk quickly changed to a smile.

They proceeded along the path into the cemetery.  A flashlight was found in Harry’s car and used it to light their way.  Music could be heard clearly after walking fifty yards.  Dancing figures came in to view.  Lights were placed on headstones and hung on mausoleum doors.  Dancing figures disappeared into shadows, some staggered to a tree to be sick, or relieve themselves.

“Oh, man.  Do you know who’s buried here?” Brando said, excitedly.

“Who?” Emily said.

“George Romero.  I love his movies.”

“Who’s that?” Barb asked.  Everyone looked at her in disbelief.  “What?”  She looked at them innocently.  Emily named off some of his movies.  Her eyes widened as she realized what movies she liked he was involved with.

Cresting a rise, they heard clear sounds of people talking.  Other sounds mixed into a garbled murmur.  Shadows lessened and details emerged.  Forms on the ground turned into lost shoes, discarded beverage containers and clumps of soil.  Some headstones had large gopher holes on one side or another.

“For shit’s sake.  They’re making for a long day of cleaning up,” Harry declared.

Larger forms laying behind headstone were left alone.  No one wanted to disturb two lovers getting busy.  The scene was left untouched as the search went on toward the noise of a gathering.

“Harry.  Has anyone been painting headstones?” Brando asked.  He pointed to one smeared and streaked with a dark color.

“Not that I’m aware of,” he said, disgustedly.  “It sounds like the party moved.”  He led them toward the group huddled around writhing forms.

“Hands off, creep,” Barb declared.  She swatted a hand away.  Emily turned toward her sister.

“Barb, walk ahead of me,” she said.  The figure gave them a drunken stare.  Emily nudged him away as they walked.

“What was that about?” Harry asked.  He watched Barb carefully.

“Some drunk copping a feel,” Emily said.  Barb shivered at the memory.

Behind a cluster of mausoleums was the party.  Figures meandered around a plot full of granite headstones.  Music played on an old radio.  No one moved with any rhythm to the music.  Less interest was given to dancing, or talking.

“Where’s the booze?” Carl asked.  A couple of heads turned.  Vacant eyes swept over Harry’s group.  No emotions registered in the faces.  Silence answered.

“This isn’t a party, guys,” Harry pointed out.  “No one’s drinking.”

No bottles or cans littered the ground.  No one held a container of any kind.  More empty gazes turned toward the new arrivals.  Some with Goth paleness, some with grimy, worked-all-day grunge on their faces.

“I said hands off,” Barb yelled.  She turned and swung.  Her fist connected with the drunk.  The sound was like a twig breaking.  The drunk turned back to face her, jaw hanging off to one side of his face.  Barb screamed.  The drunk stared at her with vacant eyes.

“Get away from her,” Emily said.  She stepped toward the drunk and shoved him.  He fell back, landing with a thud.  As an afterthought he reached up slowly to grab at something.

“Let’s get out of here,” Brando said.

The drunk acted like nothing happened to him.  Emily dragged Barb after the group.  They wound through the headstones in full retreat.  Dead staring eyes watched them go.

“You’ve got a hell of a swing, Barb,” Harry said after walking for a few minutes.  She didn’t respond.  “Brando, do you know what’s going on?”

“No.  It’s creepy, whatever it is,” Brando said.  He stayed near Emily and Barb.

They huddled near an outbuilding deep in the cemetery.  Emily comforted Barb as they rested.  Everyone was looking around.

“Where’s Carl?” Harry asked.

“Shit.  He’s probably stuck on getting drunk and looking for booze,” Harvey said.  “Let’s go find him before he gets into trouble.”

Harvey and Harry lead the way back the way they had come.  Brando hung back with the group of ladies, more like a big brother than a romance seeker.  He helped keep unnecessary hands away from Barb and her friends.  Barb’s friends helped comfort her.  Creeping through the silence made for a tense search.  The radio still played in the distance as a beacon.

“Son of a bitch,” came a muffled protest.  They homed in on a small building.

“There he is.”  Harvey went to a prone figure.  “Shit, man.  Did you run into a headstone?  Your head’s bleeding.”

“No.  Someone threw a pillow at me,” he retorted.  “Yeah, I ran into one.”

“Carl, we were walking,” Harvey said.  “You walked your drunk ass into the side of a mausoleum.”

“I think that group is coming.  I don’t want to meet them again,” Emily said.

“I second that,” Brando said.  “How about checking out the party at The Fire Alarm now?  Leave this party alone.”  Everyone agreed.

They circumnavigated the partiers as they made their way back to the maintenance shed.  More blank faced revelers had joined the crowd following them.  Carl slowed their group down as they moved.  Dizziness kept him walking slowly.  Someone had to stay near him as a guide.

“What’s going on?” Carl asked dreamily.

A group moved toward them from the direction of their cars.

“Your slow ass is keeping us from having fun,” Harvey said.

They moved around the blank faced group.  Moving was slowed more because of the darker route than Carl.  Moving gradually toward the shed sounds moved in from more places as they went.  An occasional groper made a grab for someone.  One of them reached closer for one of the ladies.  Emily turned and delivered a series of devastating blows.  Something broke in the groper’s face.

“Damn, girl.  Where’d you learn to fight?” Brando asked, clearly impressed.

“Two tours in the Sand Box with an artillery battalion.  They can brawl like any MMA fight if need be.  After one bad joke and rude gesture, I showed off a few things I’d learned from a boxer training for a cage fight.”  Emily turned a warm smile to him.  “I prefer you not call me girl.  I think I’ve proven I’m not one.”

“I’ll keep that in mind.  I was with Force Recon.  I did three tours in Afghanistan.  Never met any ladies in combat units,” he said.  “I’ll be on your team in any fight.  That guy isn’t moving.”  Brando looked at the downed figure.

“If we don’t move, we may need to fight more.”  Emily scanned the area.  Her intense look added more admiration to Brando’s impression of her.  “I don’t think this is a party anymore.  And I don’t feel sorry about that.”  She pointed at the down groper and walked away.

Groups were moving out of the distant parts of the cemetery.  Emily’s group settled to take the paved lane back to the shed.  They stopped to give Carl a rest.  He’d slowed to a shuffle.

“I think I’m gonna be sick,” Carl said.  He went to the side and lost his dinner.

“Numb nuts probably gave himself a concussion,” Harvey said.  “When we get back to the cars I’ll take him to the hospital.”

Harry went to check on their friend.  Carl sat against a headstone staring at nothing.  Harry nudged him trying to get a response out of him.

“I’m calling an ambulance,” Harvey said, reaching for his cell phone.  He dialed 911 and waited.  “911 is backlogged with calls.  I keep getting put on hold.  I’m going to flag down a cop and see if he can get someone here.”

Two steps and Harvey stopped, suddenly quiet.  His animated demeaner cooled to nothing.  Everyone looked at him and followed his gaze.  Emily and Brando went to high alert.  Others in the group tuned in to the tension.

“That’s not possible,” Harvey said.  His arm came up to point.

“No.  It’s not.  That’s why we’re leaving now,” Brando declared.  Harvey pointed to Carl.  “Leave him.  We get to the street and flag down a cop.  Call 911.  Whatever.  We’re not staying.”

“Why are we leaving so fast?” Barb asked.  “We’re here to join a party.”

“That.”  Emily pointed at the group moving in their direction.  One person out ahead focused on them.  “The one in front is George Romero.”  He led the group like any good general would.

“You said he’s buried here.  Right?” Barb stated.  “As in dead and buried?”

“He’s supposed to be.”  More people shambled toward their group.  A foul odor wafted to them.  Harry knew that as the smell of death.

“I’m not leaving Carl.  He’s a dumbass, but he’s a friend,” Harvey said resolutely.

“Keep up,” Brando said.  Doubt evident on his face.  “He’s your burden.”

Harvey struggled to support and pull Carl along.  Carl made a feeble attempt to walk.  He took one step for every four Harvey took.  Harry turned to say something to Harvey.  He panicked to see Carl turn his head and clamp down on Harvey’s neck.  Harvey’s scream stopped everyone.  Blood sprayed from Harvey’s neck when Carl tore a chunk out of his friend.

Slow moving figures moved out of the acres of headstones on each side of the path.  Some moved faster than others.  Carl fell as Harvey let go and stepped away.  He moved to the side, holding his neck.  Blood flooded past his hand as the fastest graveyard walkers closed in.  Harry’s flashlight swept the area.  Every pale faced person moving toward them went to Harvey.  Light reflected on pale complexions.  Dirt and decay marked the slowest moving walkers.  The light settled on the group on the path.  Some weren’t as dirt covered as the others.

One face in the group focused on Harry’s group.  George Romero watched them as his army of dead groupies slowly advanced.

“Let’s go,” Brando declared.  “They’re dead.  I don’t want to be.”

To be continued… Come back Wednesday for part three. 

Free Fiction Friday: Last Stand by J. C. Eickelberg 1/3

Last Stand
Part 1/3

By: J. C. Eickelberg

An exciting 3-part story inspired by and in remembrance of the great George Romero.

Late morning sun glinted off a dusty truck driving to town.  As the crew approached a neighbor’s property, buzzards were seen circling over a downed steer.  A quick cell phone call let the rancher know about another carcass in the field.  They took little notice of crows picking away on roadkill.

In town, trucks lined each side of the main street.  Most people in town were running errands.  Bad storms were predicted for later in the afternoon and no one wanted to get caught in them.  At Frank’s Café the crew driving into town was looking to have a late lunch.  Frank’s had a good menu and pleasant customers.  The rusty and dirty crew cab truck pulled into a spot and quickly emptied.  The lunch counter was unusually busy for so late in the lunch hour.   They scanned the dining area for a place to sit.

“Halloran lost four more head last week,” one man was saying.  “Is there something going around?”

“Not that I heard,” Frank said from behind the counter.  “I’ll listen for any word about that.  Doc Schuster comes in once or twice a week.  I’ll have to pick his mind for some information.”  He looked up from the packed counter.  “Hi, Darrell.  Treating the crew to lunch?”

“Yeah.  We’re done with what we needed to do at the stockyard and wanted to catch lunch before heading back.  We saw another dead steer in McAllister’s field on the way in.  That’s…,” he thought a second, “eight for him this week.”

“Ten,” Wayne said from behind him.  “I got a call this morning.  He found two more last night.  Buzzards got ‘em really quick.”

“That’s got to be a record for the year,” Frank said shaking his head.

“It’s been a record year for buzzards, too,” another counter sitter piped in.  “I’ve seen clouds of them on the other side of town.”

“By the Romenesko ranch?” Darrell asked.  A nod.  “He’s commented about them.  No one’s been able to figure why there’s so many.”

“I saw two on top of Rutlin’s Hardware.  Could have sworn they were watching me drive by,” a coverall clad sitter said.  He worked for one of the companies contracted to remove dead livestock.

“Driving your carcass truck today?”

“Nope.  My pickup.”

“I’ve seen them in trees by the ball diamonds.  Nothing anywhere near the trees for them to eat,” Frank said.  “I brought a load of stuff to the snack shack yesterday and thought it was a murder of crows.  None of the teams there mentioned a carcass nearby.”

A scream from outside and screeching tires got their attention.  Two large blurs streaked down to the sidewalk.

Darrell and his crew ran out to assist.  They exited the restaurant to find two buzzards attacking a mother and toddler.  The youth was strapped into a stroller, bawling as the bird attempted to extract him.  The mother was fending off her own attacker.  Darrell’s crew didn’t break stride as they advanced to the melee.

One boot connected with the vulture attacking the stroller, sending the bird to the gutter.  It lumbered back to attack the stroller not bothered by being kicked.  A wing flopping off kilter didn’t faze the bird.  Another more savage kick launched it into the street.

Screams from the mother slackened as Darrell grabbed the wings of her attacker and pulled it away.  He gagged on its stench, but held firm.  Struggling to get its meal, the vulture’s rabid movements broke its bones.  Darrell stood, shocked as broken bones slipped out of the wings and the body of the bird fell to the sidewalk.  It didn’t hesitate as it ran back to its target, wingless.  Another observer ran up behind the mother, bypassed her and punted the bird over the street.  A shotgun went off and a passing car was dusted with vulture’s remains.  The bird in the street waddled back, a dent visible in its chest.

“What the hell?” exclaimed the punter.

“Stand clear,” someone bellowed.

Darrell saw the gun wielder step up, racking a fresh shell into the chamber.  Darrell picked up the stroller and moved toward the hysterical mother.  Two of his crew dragged her away from the scene.  Another blast scattered fetid remains across two parked trucks.  Clacking made heads turn back to the bloody scene.  The bodiless head continued to snap at anyone nearby.

“Just die, already,” demanded the punter.  He stomped the head flat.

“What the hell was that about?” Darrell asked.  He looked around.  “Dwayne?”

“They’ve been moving into the area,” Dwayne said, reaching down to pick up the spent shells.  “This is the first I’ve seen them go after anything living.”

“What are you talking about?” Darrell asked, exasperated.

“I’ve been watching them for Dr. Marstedt.  He wants to know why their numbers have grown,” Dwayne said.  “A few soaring out in the boonies, some hovering by the stockyards isn’t unusual.  Over the last few weeks numbers have tripled.”

“Why is Doc Marstedt interested in this?” Darrell wondered.

“Does anyone know what’s going around the herds to bring in the top veterinarian in the state?” Dwayne stated innocently.  “If he’s looking into it, we’re not the only ones with this problem.”

“What bug is going around to do this?” Punter pointed to the splatter next to his boot.  Everyone looked at the massacred birds.  Three vehicles had remains painted across parts of them.

“No one knows, yet,” Dwayne said.

The woman was checking her child for marks, applying hugs and kisses liberally.  A police car eased to the curb, lights on without the siren.  An ambulance was rounding a corner heading toward them.  Some people came out to investigate what happened.  The cop went to Dwayne, the most obvious of weapon carriers.  Darrel and his crew were questioned and let go.

***

“Reporters have come across numerous accounts of ranchers reporting higher than normal cattle deaths in many western states.  Findings have also been reported of larger populations of buzzards being seen circling over dead animals.  No reasons have been found for the sudden death of cattle and sudden spike in buzzard populations.  Scientists have no theories, or explanations yet, why buzzards have appeared in such large numbers.  Veterinarians have examined some of the dead cattle and sent samples to labs with hopes of finding a cause of death.  No signs of unusual illness or parasites in any animals have been noted.

“A little closer to home, reports continue to come in about graves being dug up throughout area cemeteries.  Police have no leads about the whereabouts of those recently buried or why anyone would want to desecrate the graves.  Anyone with information is asked to contact police.”  The news was switched off as political commentary began.

“That’s sad,” came a voice from the kitchen.

“Yeah.  No one can seem to stop the verbal diarrhea about politician’s behavior,” said the watcher.

“Emily, that’s not what I’m talking about.”  A lean figure came to the door.  “The graves.  So many opened up and no one can find out why.  I feel for the families.”

“Maybe some politician is finally finding where his constituents are living and want to shake some hands,” Emily said.

“Your impossible.  Always slamming politicians.  Give it a rest.”  Emily looked like she could go a round with any politician in the boxing ring.  Lean like her sister, but built more like a professional athlete, than the high-level manager she was during business hours.

“Barb.  I’ll give it a rest when those grey hairs are rotting in their graves.”  Emily sneered at the quiet TV as she tied her running shoes.

Barb walked to join her sister.  They went through their ritual stretches.

“Emily, are you going to go easy on me with sprints?”

“Don’t outdistance me too bad this time,” Emily said. “That’s why I work you so hard on sprints, Barbie Doll.”

“Oh, shut up, Emmylou Harris,” Barb chided.  She was ready to talk about something different.  “I’ve seen guys swoon over you at Karaoke.”

“I’ll woo them with a song if I want.  I can beat them down if they talk trash and they know it,” Emily said.

“You look it, too,” Barb said.  “I wish I had a little more muscle like you.  You look great.”

“And I wish I had some more of your Barbie Doll looks,” she replied.  They smiled.  “I like hanging out with you.  You’re fun.”  She went out the front door and down the steps.

“So are you.  I like hanging out with my big sister.”

“Your older sister likes hanging out with her baby sister.”  Emily narrowed her eyes at Barb.  She was a little conscious of her appearance.  They started jogging down the street.

“Shut up.  I’m not a baby,” Barb said with a mock pout.  She reached out to slap her sister’s shoulder.  She missed.

“Catch me, first,” Emily said with a smile.  She sprinted ahead.

“Slow down,” Barb said.  “Bitch.”  She laughed to herself.

Barb ran after her sister.  She caught Emily a block later settling into a steady pace.  Both ran easily, moving through afternoon pedestrians as they found their favorite paths into the urban green space.  Barb griped about being pushed doing sprints.  Emily griped back about her whining.

Jogging into a park was the warmup.  They started walking as more people meandered through the lengthening shadows.  They walked around picnics set up for an evening out for families and couples.  They found a spot to run sprints.  A few guys gave the sisters appreciative looks as they sprinted from one place to another.  One invited them to a party when Barb called for a break.  Heads shaken were the only answer the invitation got.  The party goers went away broken hearted.

“Those guys are half drunk already,” Emily said.

“When was the last time we were invited to a party?” Barb asked.

“Not too long ago.  These guys are barely out of college and just want to get into your pants,” Emily said.  “I’ve got a few numbers at home.  Some belong to a lot better looking guys than those.  And more mature.”

Birds flittered around the picnic goers, looking for crumbs or a dropped chip.  Crows flanked sparrows as they moved in to chase lost morsels.  Shadows in the sky weren’t unusual as birds moved with the wind.  Barb kept looking at the larger birds riding thermals.

“These are the largest birds I’ve ever seen,” Barb said.  “Are those vultures?”

“They’re just large crows,” Emily said.  She doubted her initial thought then, remembering about vultures being seen in the city.  They had an easy run back through the park.  A few more sprints and they turned toward home.

They ran back to their townhouse as a cool down.  A night out was well appreciated.  The banter from before the run continued as the pair got cleaned up for going out.

Walking into a club to meet up with friends, the sisters were all smiles when they found them.  A couple of hours of dancing and a few drinks were enjoyed.  Emily and her group got invited to a party by another group.  In the group Emily met a handsome guy more interested in her than her fashionista sister.

“Brando, where’s this party?” Emily asked.  They were wanting a smaller, calmer party to finish out their night.

“Out near St. George’s Necropolis Cemetery.  There’s an old fire station across the street.  Some of my friends are having a party starting in an hour,” he said.  He looked like a young Marlon Brando.

“How far is it?”

“Two or three miles,” Brando said.

“How are we going to get there?” Barb asked.  Her and Emily had taken a cab to get to the club.

“We have enough cars to get all of us there,” he said.  He was showing maturity Emily liked to see in men. To be continued… Come back Sunday for part two. 

Free Fiction Friday: Wild Imagination by Marcie

Wild Imagination
by Marcie

Julian is a simple man whose imagination plays out in his mind, allowing him a bit of stimulation in his mundane world. He has a strict routine every day. Waking at five a.m., Julian runs five miles at the park, coming home by five forty-five a.m., he has orange juice, toast, brushes his teeth, then takes a shower with Irish spring soap and dresses in a green pull over. He puts on his standard work issued royal blue slicker, even on sunny days. Julian always takes the same route to get to work.

On the way down the driveway to his green Prius Julian imagines the neighbors barking dog breaking through the six-foot wooden fence and savagely mauling his face. While driving to work he thinks about being in a devastating car wreck, hydroplaning then flipping the green Prius over three times. In the bathroom he imagines smashing his penis beneath the toilet bowl lid and being too embarrassed to call for help, none of which actually happens.

Taking a walk on his lunch break, Julian can’t quite make out the shape he sees on the shore among the branches and brush on the opposite side of the Brandywine river.

It’s inconceivable, he thinks as he strains his eyes to see if he truly sees part of a royal blue slicker caught on a branch.

No of course it can’t be.

He rubs his eyes and peers as best he could, then decides he has far too creative an imagination. Julian shakes his head and returns to his job repairing simple machines in the small grey building just next the river. Julian is lucky enough to have the solitude of work without distractions, but in the quiet of the day, his mind wanders and curiosity ails him again. He peeks out the window for a different point of view.

Yes.

Pretty certain that he sees a body across the river, he has to make absolutely sure. The row boat used for emergencies, was parked just up from the shore. He slowly climbs down the steep hill to the river, pushes the row boat to the edge of the water, hops in, then rows downstream before he gets his bearings to cross over. Upon rowing, he imagines himself tipping the boat and being swallowed up by the ice-cold water.

Pulling to shore he anchors the boat and steps out. Thinking he might be a hero by solving an important murder case, Julian bravely reaches for the royal blue slicker caught on the branch. Upon seeing the body, he flips it over and loudly gasps. Rubbing his eyes, he sees a mirror image of himself. Panic stricken, Julian shrieks, scrambles back to the boat. Slipping on the slick surface of a large wet rock, he falls back wards hitting his head on the corner of a jagged stone upon the river’s edge. The firm cherry Jell-O brain tissue separates from the hard-outer shell of Julian’s skull as he perishes with his imagination on the opposite side of the Brandywine river.


Marcie is a writer enthusiast and wishes to spend more time reading and writing. She was told her writing voice was once Gothic Splatter Punk and is currently working on a story. She works part time for Hagley Museum and Library as a tour guide and enjoys being involved in the history and many programs they offer. Dressing in 19th century clothing is a bonus. She is currently enrolled at Southern New Hampshire University for Creative Writing and English and hopes to eventually complete an MFA program there.

Free Fiction: Serenity by Tanisha D. Jones

SERENITY

by Tanisha D.  Jones

He was a constant explorer and that was what brought him to the dingy alley in Chinatown. The smell of old fish and mooshoo pork wafted through the steaming grates in the ground as the late October air, whipped through his expensive Armani trench coat. Being one of the richest men in the country afforded him the luxury of his eccentricities. It also afforded him a degree of anonymity. Never a public figure, media did not hound him, as a matter of fact, not many people knew him as it were. And that’s the way he preferred it.

It was damp, dark, and hard to see, but he didn’t need to see, he knew where he was going in the bleakness of the desolate alley. He found the door, the same hidden door camouflaged to look like the dark worn bricks of the decrepit buildings that lined either side of the alley. He knocked twice, then stepped back and waited. A brick shifted, and then slid open to reveal two piercing black eyes. They peered at him briefly, then the brick moved back into place and the wall opened to reveal a small Asian man with thick glasses wearing a food stained t-shirt, old khaki pants an apron and black bedroom slippers that had seen better days. He waved him in impatiently, before slamming the door.

“Good Evening Mr. Walters. Back so soon?” The old Asian spoke in crisp clear tones, his English tinged with a slightly British accent.

“Mr. Cheng. And please call me Max.” He slipped off his coat and tossed it on a nearby table. The room was warm and decorated in bright floral prints. The furniture was old French Country and smelled of fresh coffee and potpourri. Mr. Cheng motioned for Walters to have a seat and he willingly sat on the plush floral sofa. It was as if he were back in his grandmother’s living room. Everything seemed so pleasant in the windowless room; the mock fireplace glowing orange and casting warmth through the room. Delicate dollies lined the many shelves and tables, pedestals for several dozen brick aback and chotchkeys that Mr. Cheng and his late wife had collected over the years and their extensive travels.

“Tea?” Mr. Cheng offered as he wiped his hands on the already dirty apron.

“No thank you.” Max Walters shifted impatiently. He didn’t fit in this room. He was a tall man, nearly seven feet tall, with coarse jet-black hair that was prematurely graying at the temples. His skin was smooth and tanned and he was in extrodinary physical shape. The startling blue eyes seemed the only semblance of telling his age. They were lively and seemed to dance when he spoke.

“When you called you said that you had something different” Mr. Cheng nodded and smiled, exposing perfect white teeth.

“Yes, yes. Of course.” He motioned again, this time for Max to follow him. They walked out of the room to a narrow hallway, off to the right of the hallway was a bustling restaurant kitchen. Waiters and busboys in crisp white shirts moved back and forth in elegant dance of routine. Mr. Cheng looked inside and shouted something in Cantonese, before leading Max to end of the hall. The further they walked the darker and more claustrophobic the space got. The walls seemed to close in on them, to the point that Max had to turn sideways and nearly shimmy through the narrow space, the ceiling pressing down on the top of his head. Finally, when they reached the end, a door opened and Max entered. Ducking his head as he scuttled past Mr. Cheng, he stepped into the abyss laid out before him, his feet connecting with, what he pictured in his mind to be a dilapidated, wooden staircase. He wasn’t sure, as he had never actually seen the staircase; he could only feel the wrought, exhausted railing that ran the length of the steep decline.

Mr. Cheng followed him down a narrow staircase that creaked under their weight. The darkness surrounding the staircase was ominous, and on several of his midnight treks to this god-forsaken place, Max had felt as if he’d walked right into hell. The first time he’d been led down this path, he had feared for his life, now, it was a routine that he relished. He could feel the excitement whelm in his stomach, as he imagined the various oddities Mr. Cheng and his assistant had collected. As the pale pink light at the end staircase, which began as a tiny point of light spread to expose a entry to a much larger room, he could feel his stomach twisting in nervous knots.

The room smelled of perfume and sweet smelling soaps and flowers. Mr. Cheng called to someone in perfect French, then gave Max a pat on the shoulder, before disappearing back into the darkness. Max sat on one of the many satin draped sofas and looked around. The room was decorated in black and white art deco furniture. There were fluffy white rugs on the floor and elegant paintings on the walls as several young women and men milled around, all in satin pajamas and bedroom slippers. The males all wore simple satin drawn string pajamas bottoms, and the females, the matching tops. They were all young, and beautiful, and physically marred in some way. There were several youth missing limbs, one beautiful young girl with the most delicate blonde hair and large soulful brown eyes. She was lovely and had a gentle way about her. She was affectionately called Angel, as she had large flaps that ran along the underside of her arms and connected to her waist like massive flesh wings. There were the twins, known only as Pisces One and Two, a brother and sister, both with long dark hair and somewhat Asian features, both born with their legs fused together. There were more, maybe a dozen or so, the most extreme was a boy, found the jungles of South America, who had bright red and orange scales that covered his head like fiery plumage and followed the track of his spine to his tailbone. He had bright yellow eyes and spoke in a soft whisper of a voice. They were medical anomalies, and Max found them beautiful. They greeted him with bright smiles and hugs and kisses. Reaching into his pockets, they pulled out treats of candies and little trinkets that he always carried for them.

The person Mr. Cheng had called, Max knew very well. She appeared out of nowhere, it seemed. She was tall, blond, her hair pulled away from her face in a delicate bun. She wore no make up and was the only person, other than Max, completely dressed. She wore he standard uniform of tailored, black tuxedo pants and a crisp white shirt, unbuttoned just enough to expose the curve of her ample bosom.

“Mr. Walters, back so soon?” She smiled as he rose to greet her. She offered her hand and Max gave it a brief shake.

“Selena.”

She nodded and turned on her silver stilettos and Max obediently followed her out of the room down a brightly lit hallway lined with doors. Each door had a name neatly painted in either black or pink lettering, beneath, which was a small shaded window. The walls seemed to vibrate with the sounds of sex, and he could feel himself getting hard at the thought of what was to come. He had been in many of the rooms, and knew of the pleasure that would come from these beautiful special people. They were loving and gentle, and since he had discovered Mr. Cheng and Selena, regular sexual encounters never fulfilled him. He had found it more and more exciting to come to this place, night after night. It had become his home away from home and he found that even here, his depravity was more than he could handle.

Selena paused at a metal door at the very end of the hallway. “This is her.”

There was no name painted on the door, instead of a window like the other doors, her door housed a metal slide large enough for one person to look in. He peered inside and saw a girl sitting at a vanity slowly brushing her shoulder length hair, which was a startling shade of red. Her skin was pale and her bright green eyes seemed to be too large for her face. She turned and looked at Max, a coy smile on her lips. Around her ankle was a shackle, and a heavy chain that was bolted to the wall. The room’s walls were covered in satiny pink padding. It was like looking into a diorama of a doll’s house, with a perfect porcelain doll at its center.

“She’s lovely.” Max whispered, both disgusted and intrigued. “She is not what I expected. When Mr. Cheng spoke of her, he gave me the impression –”

Selena took a key from her pocket. “She is not what she seems, but I assure you Mr. Walters, she is exactly what you requested.” She pushed the door open. Max stood on the threshold, knowing that this was the last chance. This was his last chance to be a just walk away. He could walk out of here, live a full and fulfilling life and never set foot in this place again. He could forget about Mr. Cheng’s menagerie of fantastical creatures and never give the place a second thought. But the moment Selena opened that door; he knew there was no turning back. He was immediately drawn to her. She wasn’t like the others; there was no hint of malformed limbs or even a scar on her that he could see. She was just a pretty girl in a room full of pretty things.

“What’s her name?” He heard himself asking, looking around the room.

“My name is Serenity.” She spoke in a deep, husky voice, which belied her features. Nervously, he glanced at Selena who seemed unfazed by the entire situation.

Max asked, even as he found himself stepping into the powder pink bedroom.

“As I said, she is not what she seems. Serenity is very special. It is not often one comes across one like this.” Selena cleared her throat and when Max looked at her she raised one perfectly arched eyebrow. He nodded, absently reaching into his pocket and withdrawing a large envelope stuffed with cash. Selena took it and began to back out of the door. She paused for a moment, her lineless face creased as she expressed the first hint of emotion he’d ever seen.

“Are you sure this is what you want, Mr. Walters? There are many others here you can try.” He waved her off, his eyes drawn to the girl who continued to brush her hair and sing a pleasant melody. He was transfixed by the dulcet tone of her voice. She turned to look at him, smiling coyly over her shoulder and he moved further into the room. “Very well,” Selena said with a resigned sigh. “As you wish.”

He didn’t even realize that she was gone until her heard the door closed behind him with a slam, the sound of the lock, startling him. He glanced back, just as Selena slid the metal cover over the peephole shut. He was frozen in place, staring at the room. It was a child’s room, complete with stuffed animals on the bed. She stood and came towards him, in her soft pink satin pajamas and pink fluffy slippers.

Sitting on the bed he stared into her eyes and smiled, then motioned for him to have a seat on her animal laden bed. He obliged, never taking his eyes off of her and that beautiful scarlet hair. She was a striking girl, with a playful smile. He motioned for her to sit beside him on the bed and she did, willingly. “I’m Max.” He said. She smiled brighter, shaking his hand vigorously.

“Nice to meet you, Max.” She said. She moved her ankle and winced in visible pain. The shackle was pinching her flesh and she tried to ignore it, but the pain was etched in her face. Max felt twinge of guilt as the chain rattled with every move she made. She leaned with her head on his shoulder, gently stroking his inner thigh.

“My, you have such lovely red hair. It’s very pretty.” She looked down, knowing what was coming and began to undo his pants. “You are a very pretty girl, Serenity, but I guess you hear that all the time.” She shrugged non-committal.

“I think you’re very pretty.” As she spoke, she placed her hand inside of his pants, stroking with delicate fingers until he became hard. “You have such a pretty mouth, can I kiss you?” She brushed her lips across his and in that instant, the prey became the predator. “Your mouth is soft. You taste like honey. Sweet honey.” She purred.

“Did Selena tell you to say that?” Again, she shook her head and kissed him again, gently pushing his shoulders back, until he found himself lying on the bed. The more she spoke, the more he felt as if something about this young woman, this girl barely out of her teens, was wrong. Her voice had an almost hypnotic effect on him, and his body had a mind of its own.

“Don’t be scared,” She mumbled. “I will make you feel good. That’s why you came to this place Mr. Walters-Max. To experience the forbidden, the unexpected? And that is what you will get; the pleasure will be so worth it.” The statement, he thought, was an odd one. But this girl was odd. Something in this situation seemed unnatural and rehearsed. She whispered sweetly nasty comments and stoked his hair.

“I’m not afraid of you. And you- don’t be afraid of me. It’ll be painless, I promise.” Her tone was teasing and light, but he still felt as if he should leave. In his head that little voice was screeching at him to leave. From the moment he’d laid eyes upon her he’d had the niggling feeling that something about the girl was wrong.

She brushed her thin lips against his, her tongue slipped between his teeth and he was lost in the feel of her. As she began to undress him, the warning bell in his head started to ring again. This was wrong, something about this was wrong. This room, the locked steel door, the padded walls. The chain on her ankle- this was uncomfortable and wrong. Yet, he couldn’t stop himself from wanting this waif of a girl. The way she touched him, and looked at him with something that he could only classify as want.

“Kiss me again Max.” She ran her fingers through his hair, as her mouth came closer her could smell her breath. It smelled of warm spun sugar. “Kiss me.” Her mouth covered his in a hungry, expert kiss. It was as if she were trying to devour him, pushing his mouth hard against her own. He was startled by her strength and aggression, but, inexplicably, he liked it. The surrendering of control to this delicate girl seemed to excite him even more.

As her kiss deepened, the faint taste of almond filled his mouth; almond and something sweet and sticky, something both unfamiliar but comforting and soothing. His mind clouded over, and the room became hazy, as if he’d been drugged. He could feel her moving over him, undressing him with professional ease, yet he couldn’t move. He could feel her body moving against his, and in his hazy, the image of her nude body flashed before him. He could feel her mouth warm and moist on his bare flesh. And her skin seemed to be nearly too hot to touch, but he welcomed her warmth. He found himself confused by his euphoric state, as she mounted him, taking him deep inside of her. She seemed to fit him, as if she were made for him, only him. He wanted to touch her, nuzzle her small breast, and run his hands through her flame red hair. That hair, that beautiful strawberry scented hair. He tried to reach for her and discovered that he couldn’t move. He couldn’t lift his arms. He could only lay and enjoy her surprising sexual prowess. She seemed to know how to bring him to the edge, and then back off just when he felt he was ready to explode.

“What did you do to me?” He could barely choke the words out, he tongue felt thick and heavy in his mouth. Her only reply was a series of moans and the rattling of the chain against the side of the bed. She looked at him, excitement lighting her emerald eyes, then rocked her hips slowly, so slowly that the thrill was agonizing. The pleasure was so intense, so deep; it was like nothing he’d ever felt before. Unable to focus or move, he closed his eyes and gave into it, reveled in it, listening as she murmured words of seduction in her deepening voice.

The soft girlish murmurs that had soothed him into relenting were getting louder as she spoke in a language he did not recognize. The murmurs became louder and louder echoing in his brain in an incoherent cacophony of voices screaming in his head. She twisted, seeming to bring him deeper into her, her body, slick with sweat, moved against him. Wherever she touched him, his skin prickled with new sensations, new bliss. She was, in a word, mind-blowing.

“What did you do-”  He opened his eyes and began screaming at the sight of her. No longer did his lovely Serenity there, above him; instead, looming over him was this horrendous thing. That was the only way to describe it; a thing with bright blue and red soft scale like feathers that covered every inch of it. Its features were avian but beakless; its mouth running the entire length of is flat saucer like face. It had human comparable appendages, from what he could see and breasts; there were breasts, covered in the same blue red scales. He screamed louder as it moved with an animalistic fervor over him, the bright green too large eyes staring at him.

Paralyzed, he continued to scream as it climaxed, spilling a gooey pinkish black substance across his groin and stomach, before digging its razor sharp nails into the flesh of his thighs. He immediately went numb; it was as if she’d doused him in novocaine. Not only could he not move, he felt nothing. Without saying a word, but laughing in a deep husky baritone, it moved its face to his; sweet cotton candy breath engulfed and nearly choked him.

“Serenity is so, so, hungry.” It said after sniffing him, then opened its mouth exposing three rows of pointed yellowed teeth. He opened his mouth to scream again, when its mouth clamped on his throat, tearing the flesh and bone away until there was nothing but a large bloody hole. Blood seemed to spray across the room in brilliant rivulets. He could feel the life leaving his body and the sense of relief filled him. This was the way it was supposed to be. He thought as the life drained from him and the creature that was Serenity fed upon him. There was no pain. He realized as the room went dim. There was no pain, only the gentle and somewhat erotic sense of being suckled at the neck. No pain, he thought, just as she’d promised.

She was worth every penny.


Tanisha Jones is a writer of Urban Theological Mythological Slightly Erotic Romance or Paranormal romance for the less creative thinker.  She was born and raised in New Orleans, where she still lives with her daughter.  When she isn’t writing, she is a true New Orleanais either cooking, reading or watching the New Orleans Saints.

Follow Tanisha at:

Tanisha D Jones, Divinely Dark Romance:  http://tanishadelill.wordpress.com

Twitter: @tanishadelill

Website: www.tanishadjones.com

Free Fiction: Dayfall by Tanisha D. Jones

Dayfall

by Tanisha D. Jones

The three suns of Eldorra were setting in the South when I rose from my slumber atop my down mattress.  The cold had crept into the loft that was my bedroom and chilled my bones.  Careful not to wake my sweet sister Lua, I dressed in my warmest jumper and fluffy woolen socks and I crept down the ladder to the main room of our little house on the edge of Mesic, our village near the harvest fields.  Tonight we prepared for harvest and acte d’elecció, when I would become a dona, a wife.  My name is Lycia Monglave, I am fourteen cycles old and I am the caçador, hunter, of our family.

Papa was in the kitchen, frying fat sausages over the fire, mulled cider was already warmed and waiting for me on the table.  The small living space of our cúpula was nice and toasting, taking the chill from my bones.   Beside his chair were the soft white leather boots Papa had cobbled for me and the delicate embroidery of my choosing night gown.  It was soft ivory with delicate lace snowflakes in the colors of Eldorran moons, pale blues, lavenders, and silver .Of all of the men in the village, Papa was the best sastre; all of his embroidery and stitching were beautiful.  He was also a very good cook, creating the most delicious meals for us.  As I came across the room, Papa looked at me with those shining bright eyes and smiled.

“Good Dayfall, Lycia.” He said in his cheerful chipper voice.  Today, Papa was Papa again.  It was hard to tell which Papa I would awake to each dayfall.  Since the beasties had taken Mama he was moody and unpredictable.  Some nights, I would awake to find him sitting near the hearth, his silver eyes filled with tears as he mooned over Mama.  Some nights, he would not even bother getting out of bed at all, ignoring Lua and little Wilkie and keeping me from going out hunting.

Other nights, he would be like this, my Papa with his smiling eyes.  On nights like this I would return from the outlands to find him with the other men of the village weaving baskets or doing the wash on the banks of the lavender spring that rushed past the village.  Nights like this were becoming more frequent as the pain of his losing Mama was becoming more bearable, not just for him but for us all.

“Good day fall, Papa.” I said and sat to drink my cider. It was warm and rich and tasted of fresh hehku berries.  As we sat in silence, the smells of sausage and cider filling our home. Outside the moons were rising and off in the distance we could hear the faint cries of the beasties, those who hadn’t returned to their warrens before the glow of the moon caught them.  I watched the pained expression on Papa’s face and realize he looked older than his years.  His silver white hair had dulled, the sheen of his skin had begun to ashen, only slightly and the sparkle in his brilliant   eyes was fading.  I watched as his handsome face tensed then relaxed.

“Papa,” I mumbled and he looked at me as if he had just realized I was sitting with him.

“I am sorry.   That was near to the village, they are already coming closer. You will not stay out long, will you Lycia? “I gave his hand a pat of reassurance. The beasties always ventured closer to the village at the times of the Soltaia. I understood his fear, I did not share it.  I could not, I would not be able to go out into the night to hunt for food and hides so that we could survive.

“I am just going to prepare the traps and I will be back before the moons are high. And I will mark them.”  I began to eat my sausages and drinking my cider before they cooled.   He gave me a tight smile and I knew what he was thinking. We lost Mama during the Soltaia harvest a full cycle ago.  The snows had come early making it difficult to see the traps that had been set in the outlands.  She had stepped on one and was waiting for help to arrive when the beasties found her.   I understood that Papa was worried, but Soltaia was the only time the mererabits transverse from the north lands to the lands beyond the lavender lake.  To have those pelts is what kept us leysi and made it possible for me to not have to go out as often as the others.

Soltaia was also the time when the suns and moons rose and set at the same time. It was the time when we lost the most villagers because the beasties would be out both night and day.  There was no day fall to protect us, the rays from the seven moons would be dulled allowing them more movement, more freedom in our fields. We lost many during the Soltaia and not just hunters. Sometime those pink skinned devils would make their way into a cúpula. Once they had gotten into the cúpula of a family who’s Dona had gone out to hunt. It had taken all of the children and the marit before she returned and killed it.

That had been the saddest harvest the village had ever seen and that was why the cúpulas now circled the square and hall had entrance doors that faced the square. The cúpulas had no windows that faced away from the village and were built close enough that the possibility of a beastie sneaking between them was impossible. We had not had another beastie in the village since this had been done.

Since Mama had been lost, I was the only hunter we had until Lua was of age, and that was many cycles from now.  So Papa would begin teaching Wilkie his duties as a future marit.  Any Dona would be lucky to have a marit like Wilkie if he was half at skilled and as beautiful as Papa was. Even though it had only been one cycle, there had been talk in the village by many of the Dona to take Papa as a marit, once he was over his sorrow over losing Mama. And since I was at the age of choosing my own marit, Papa would be alone soon with two little ones to care for.  He needed a new Dona to hunt and protect him and the wee ones.

Even with the strain of losing Mama and caring for the family on his own, Papa was still a young man of only thirty two cycles.  He still garnered giggles and whispers from the donas in the village square whenever he went out. Papa was not a tall man, but he was a lovely man, with skin the color or stardust and eyes like the western lavender moons. The most wondrous thing about Papa was his smile, blinding and bright. When he smiled at you, it was if the heavens opened just for you.  Yes, Papa was a lovely man and he world make any dona a very good marit.  Mama had been the envy of many when she and Papa had chosen each other during their first acte d’elecció.  They had been a striking duo, well matched and so in love.

I had been gifted with Papa’s lavender eyes and silken silver white hair, but I was taller than the girls my age, with Mama’s curves. I had developed strong legs and arms from many hours spent hunting in the outlands. I was also going to have my pick of the young men in the village; I had seen the looks when I went to fetch water from the well.  There were many handsome men of my age, but only one held my heart.

My beautiful Kurt. He was so delicate with soft blue eyes and pale yellow hair that shone golden in the moonlight, his skin was silken beneath my fingertips and he had the softest lips to touch mine.  He would wait for me when I returned from my hunts, sitting on the steps to my cúpula with a cup of hot mulled cider and he would rub my feet. Kurt would often come to care for the little ones in the fest nights after Mama was taken, cooking meals and preparing my bath from those first nights I would go out alone. I would come home covered in blood and filth with those paltry weaslets, Kurt was always there to help me peel the heavy furs from my shivering frame.  He had been sent from the heavens on those first nights. That’s why he was already my chosen one.

Up in the loft, I could hear Wilkie crying as he woke. A fussy boy, he never ventured from the comfort of the loft alone. Sighing, Papa rose to go fetch him and Lua for their meal of sausages, steamed milk and warm porridge.   He would take them into the small koupelna for their baths afterward, then they would go out into the village square with the other fathers and children.  They would be guarded by the soldiers who stood watch from the high towers that looked over the entire village.  Before that, I went in to clean up and prepare for the night ahead.  If I were to keep my word to Papa I had to get moving.                      `

As usually, I pulled the heavy red mererabit fur over my jumper, and plaited my silver white mane to keep it out of my eyes.  I washed my face and brushed my teeth to remove the smell of the sausages and cider before returning to the outer space of our living area.

Papa, Lua and Wilkie were at the table now. Papa was trying to feed Wilkie who sat in a beautifully carved highchair Mama had made when she was heavy with me.  It had been mine, then Lau’s now it was Wilkie’s.  The beautiful white Birchwood was delicately decorated but still fit the girls of the family well.  Wilkie, being Wilkie, had more porridge on his face than he ever actually ate.

“Come now, eat little pup.” Papa coaxed, but Wilkie preferred playing in his food to eating it.

Beside him, Lua sat with her brow furrowed and her sharp pale blue eyes focused as she concentrated on getting the heaping spoonful of porridge into her mouth instead of her lap.  At five cycles old, she had another cycle to wait before she could be trained as a caçador.   Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with sadness as I watched them. Soon, I would have a cúpula of my own with my own marit and pups. The thought made my heart hurt.

I left them to their ritual, pulling my boots on before leaving the warmth of the cúpula.  My traps had been cleaned and oiled and hung besides the front door and waited for me now. I stared up into the dull dusky sky at the seven moons as they rose over the western hills, then to the south where the suns were slowly fading but still hung in the sky like great orange balls.  One of the suns was three times the size of the largest of the moons, making their rays that much deadlier.  It had already begun; tomorrow they would remain high matching the moons, each cancelling the effects of the other.  I would make fast work of checking my traps and returning to my cúpula and the warmth of the hearth.  Thankfully, Papa had done the wash the night before; he would have no reason to leave the safety of the village square.

I looked around the square and saw that other caçadors were leaving their cúpula’s as well.  Some looked at me and waved greetings, some did not. Some had ill feelings toward me because of my love of Kurt and his for me; Kurt was mine, body and soul, and I his. I shook my head, clearing my thoughts as I tucked a blade into my boot, another into the back of my jumper beneath my heavy fur, but accessible if needed.  One thing Mama had always taught me was to be prepared for anything.

We gathered our things and filed past the sentries that guarded the only entrance and exit to the village.  During the sunlight, the sentries were replaced by a gate carved from the same moonstone as the cupulas.

Like the light of the moons, moonstone was intolerable to thee beasties.  There were no tools that they possessed that could as much as scratch the stone. It had been a perfect solution to the sunlight raids of the beasties, but that was long before I was born.

As usual, they checked out faces and names as we filed into the outlands, each moving in different directions.   Most of those in white moved south to the already snowy hills beneath the silver moons, where the foxens were plentiful.  Those in brown went east beneath the blue moons, hunters of the felcks and bison, the yellow clad went north to the shores of the lavender waters of the sea that was home to the sliver and tumtum fish.  The yellow of their cloaks blended into the high thistle weed that lines the shores.  I pulled my heavy fur lined hood over my head to travel west, through the barrens and the forests that housed the warrens of the beasties, but they were the most fertile grounds of the mererabits.  I hunted alone.

As I trekked through the crisp frozen grass setting my traps, I thought of Kurt. He had not been in the square that night, which was not unexpected.  He had gone on and on the night before about his suit for the acte d’elecció. He and Papa had worked so hard on the colors matching and the snowflake pattern that Papa had created for my gown. He was going to braid his hair to match mine and he had prepared already a special garland of pink and yellow flowers to present to me when he was chosen. Pink and yellow were my favorite colors and he said they made the silver in my eyes glow.  Kurt was a full cycle older than I and this was his second acte d’elecció. He had been chosen last cycle, by four different donas. He had not chosen any of them in return, instead he waited for me.  My soon to be marit, my beautiful delicate Kurt. Hopefully Papa would be chosen by a new dona tomorrow night as well.  He did not know that I had seen him many nights with Susi, the butcher.  She was a beautiful dona with bright red hair and she always made sure Papa had extra cuts of meat. They would steal glances at each other in the village square when they thought no eyes were upon them. She would be a great dona for my Papa and a good mother for the little ones.

I climbed my way up the ridge toward the higher ground   following the path the mererabits would follow across the harvest fields and through the woods, pausing to look down over the village. From where I stood, the cúpulas looked like a circle of perfectly sculpted balls of snow, two dozen side by side linked by tiny underground walkways.  At the back of the circle was the largest cúpula, the meeting hall that was being prepared for the choosing ceremony.  I could see the marits decorating the façade with the bright pink caleda flowers, the spicy fragrance would fill the square my dayfall tomorrow. Though pretty to look at, the flowers were also used to deter the beasties.  Something about the smell dissuaded them. Behind every few yards there were watch towers where sentries stood watch.  The soft lights from the towers would sweep the harvest plains beyond the village, watching for beasties in search of entry.  By next day fall, those sentries would be on high alert, watching and waiting.

I wandered beyond the ridge to the low country, the valley in the forest where the beasties had their warrens. As quietly as possible I began setting the traps, moving smoothly and on silent feet as I dug into the icy earth. I needed to spike the traps down so that they would not dislodge one it was sprung. The first cycle of hunting, I had lost more traps than captured mererabits because I’d failed to spike them properly.

I was lost in thought as I clipped a bright red strip of leather to mark my trap’s location, when I hear it. It was the soft pattering of footsteps. At first, I thought it to be a mererabit, but these steps were made by a solitary creature.  Mererabits were average sized creatures, larger than the foxen but much smaller than the bison and felcks.  I could carry only two at a time, which is why I set traps.  I set traps throughout the forest and world return the next night with a sleigh to bring the carcasses back to the village where they would be rendered and skinned.  The pelts and meat would be traded with the other families, as was our way. We traded with the farmers for fruits and vegs, the other hunters for meat and fish, the weavers, the lumberers. It was our way and it has worked from hundreds of cycles.

The creature making those noises was much, much larger.  I pulled my hood back so that I could better hear, the lining of the fur muting the footfalls on the frozen ground.   Three or four tree lengths away, I saw it moving slowly, but coming closer.  It was taller than any man I had ever seen, it was lean and moved as a predator does, its noise high in the air as it sniffed.  It wore dark, heavy furs, protecting its delicate pink skin from the low hanging moon, its dark piercing eyes locking with mine and I froze.

My heart thudded against my ribs, loud enough for me to hear. I wondered if he could hear it as well. It must have, because it moved closer, and took a step back right onto the trap I had just set.  I covered my mouth with my hand as pain cut through me like a knife and down I went, hitting the frozen ground with a bones rattling thud. The snap of the closing trap was tiny but the beasties have acute hearing and he was moving toward me, lopping with long easy strides between the trees coming closer.

It was over me in a split second, its hooded face hidden as it stood blocking out the moon.  Slowly, it pushed the heavy hood off back, but not completely off of its head so that I could see his face. Not many villagers had ever really seen one in person, not many that had lived to tell about it.  There were sightings of shadows and the sounds of them whispering as they moved on the outskirts of the village. Those soft hushed clicks and whistled they used when hunting. We heard the howls when one was caught out in the light of the moon, unprotected.

I reached for the blade I had tucked into the back of my jumper with shaky hands as it knelt beside me. It wore a heavy leather hooded cloak over a dark pants heavy boots. His hands had been covered in thick black gloves that protected them from the rays of the moon that burned and blistered their skin. The face of the beastie was worse than I imagined. It was a male, I assumed but his features was harder than any male in my village. Not soft and delicate like my beautiful Kurt or Papa. It had a strong jaw, with sickening white teeth that were even and gave it’s already horrid face a more sinister look.  Its eyes were of a black that I had never witnessed and its skin wasn’t pink at all, it was more the color of a tanned animal hide.

“Well,” it said in a voice much too deep and harsh to be a man’s. “Look like you’ve been caught in your own trap.  Just like the last one. What am I to do with you little one?”

I swung my blade at some area beneath the hood and he easily avoided it, laughing a deep throaty sound that seemed to rumble from deep down in his belly.  He gripped my wrist and pulled the blade from my fingers and stared at it in amusement.  The blade fit into his hand as if it were a splinter, tiny and lost in his massive fist. He tossed it aside and stared at me for a long time, his eyes narrowing as he stared at me.

“You are a pretty little one aren’t you?” He ran his large thick fingers over my hair, holding it up to the light and I struggled to free myself from him. He only held me tighter, his thin lips tightening in frustration or excitement, I was not sure which.

“This mane will fetch a pretty price; you will feed me for a quarter cycle.” He said. “I suppose you never thought your night would end like this, did you, pretty little Mesic? Silent?  No screams? No pleas for mercy? Let us see the rest of you then.” He said and I felt the knots in my stomach twist tighter.  I slapped at his hands as he reached for the collar of my jumper, tugging at it. I clawed at his face until he had no chose but to fight back. HE slapped me hard across the cheek and I could taste blood in my mouth, but I would not give up.

He fought with me, finally managing to rip the jumper and fur from my body. Tossing them aside, he exposed my bare flesh to the light of the moon. I had already flowered as a dona, my body ready to bear a child.  He stared at me, before reaching to touch my exposed breast, and I slapped his hand away, scratching and growling as I fought off his disgusting touch.  My body was not his to molest, my body was to only be touched by Kurt, my marit.

“I knew you had fight in you. I like that, I may just keep you as a pet for a while.” He said and stroked my arm. With my free leg, I kicked at him, hoping to hit his male parts, if he had any.  I missed and he laughed in quiet amusement.

Shaking his head, he grabbed my neck, pushing on my throat until I could no longer breathe, with the other massive hand he released the trap and lifted me as if I were a sack of feathers.  He held me at arm’s length, my feet dangling in midair as he held me in the moonlight, his monstrous face twisted in confusion.

“Still no cries? Do you not know that you will die soon, little one?” He asked, bringing my face close to his, but holding my arms tight to my sides. I was bare, cold and unable to reach the blade that was in my boot.  “You are a brave one.” He looked down at my leg, the one he’d released from the trap and stared at the pristine white of my fur lined boot  and intact skin.  “Why isn’t your leg broken?” He asked, more to himself than to me.

The moons of Eldorra have different effects on the people of my village. The silvery moons in the south gave us an unparalleled strength.  The sick and injured would travel to the south and lay naked in the moon’s glow to heal.   The blue moons of the west were rejuvenating, soothing and promoted fertility. At the end of the Soltaia, the new couples would journey to the cottages of the west and spend their choosing night. It is the place donas go to ensure that they are full with child during the snows. The lavender moons did something different altogether that is why I am the only one to hunt these fields, it is the reason I wear such a heavy hooded fur and jumper.

I could feel the glow of the lavender moon on my skin and a smile began at the corners of my mouth.  I tossed my head back as the transformation began, I could feel the muzzle pushing out, elongating my mouth and teeth. The silver white fur started on my belly and face as it always did, and I began to laugh a deep hallow laugh as I stared into widening eyes of the beastie.

“Because I am not the one who’s going to die.” I said. He released me and turned to run, but it was much, much too late. I landed on all fours, growling as I gave chase through the frozen waste lands of the barrens.   This is why I wear a red fur in the stark barrens of the outlands a bright beacon in a colorless landscape.

The rise of the moon isn’t the only reason the beasties hide at day fall. My name is Lycia Monglave, I am fourteen cycles old and I am a caçador.

 


Tanisha Jones is a writer of Urban Theological Mythological Slightly Erotic Romance or Paranormal romance for the less creative thinker.  She was born and raised in New Orleans, where she still lives with her daughter.  When she isn’t writing, she is a true New Orleanais either cooking, reading or watching the New Orleans Saints.

Follow Tanisha at:

Tanisha D Jones, Divinely Dark Romance:  http://tanishadelill.wordpress.com

Twitter: @tanishadelill

Website: www.tanishadjones.com

Free Fiction: Breeder by Tanisha D. Jones

BREEDER

By

Tanisha D. Jones

            They had been traveling for what felt like months under the unrelenting heat of the sun when they finally reached the metal wall that encircled the Forbidden City.  Their food had been exhausted after the first week, their last rations of water just the day before, so seeing the gleaming metal in the distance had been a wondrous revelation.   Their bodies were so void of water that they no longer had the ability to perspire. Instead, they simply stumbled forward hoping to find relief.   At first, they had believed it to be a mirage, a trick of the mind.  But as they moved closer, the shine of the polished silver nearly blinding them, they knew that they had reached their destination. Finally, as they were ready to lie in the scorching sand and let death take them, they had received a reprieve.

They’d left the cool dank tunnels of the hidden valley in search of this dome of chrome and steel. The fabled Forbidden City had been spoken only in hushed tones in Gizli, their home since the great wars that had ravaged the planet.  Millions had died, but those that had survived had been forced underground in the lush mountain valleys of the east.  The west had been devastated, with many cities wiped from the earth. Only the myth of the domed city had remained, the city that had been protected and survived the annihilation of a planet. There had been stories of the strange and unnatural creatures that were to inhabit it. As children that had been told stories of the others in warning.  “Mind your mother or the other will take you to the Forbidden City”, had made many a child heedful. But today, it was to be their salvation.

Screaming for assistance with voices that barely worked above a whisper, they were relieved and horrified.  They had come so far, yet they still were outside of the city, still unable to reach help. Falling to their knees, they pounded the searing metal with hands crackled and bleeding from the unrelenting heat. Finally, exhausted, the two collapsed into a heap in the sun backed sand, too dehydrated to shed tears.

They flinched slightly as the blast of cool air washed over them as the massive wall parted. From inside the darkened cavern sever white clad figures emerged searching the horizon for more travelers. Realizing that these were the only outsiders to venture to their compound, they took them in.  They half dragged, half carried the limp bodies behind the great wall into their fortress, the heavy doors sliding closed as they went deeper into the darkness.

“Where do you think they came from?”

“I wonder if there are more of them.”

“They must come from a cooler climate. Look at the clothes.”

“They had to come from the east.   It’s been decades since we’ve seen anyone else.”

“They are so young. They will be missed.”

“How did they get so far from home?”  Men were speaking around her; she could hear them through the haze of her exhausted sleep. She could also hear tiny rhythmic beeps and the hiss of something over her head. There was something on her face, something soft and assaulting her with cool, fresh air.  She lay in a cocoon of warmth and felt herself drifting back into the darkness when someone touched her arm.

“She’s waking.”   She struggled to open her eyes to see who was speaking in the hushed, strangely accented tones around her.  She tried to speak, but she couldn’t find her voice. The only sounds she could make were soft moans and grunts.

One of the people around her ran something hard and metallic across her face and she opened her eyes, slowly at first.  The room was blurry then gradually came into focus.   The people she had heard were men, seven of them. They were tall and thin with intelligent eyes and dark hair. She stared for a moment, not sure if she were fully awake. They were of similar height and build, all dressed in white.  Some were older, some younger, but all similar. The resemblance was eerie and could only be familial, she thought.

She blinked and stared from one to the other before turning her attention to her surroundings. The room was bright with electric light, and unlike anything she had ever seen before.  She was in a bedroom.  A true girl’s bedroom with an actual bed and carpeted floors. There was a bureau and closets and deep fluffy down pillows and a soft duvet that enveloped her in a cloud of pink and white.

“Can you sit up?” One of the younger men asked, and she nodded, weakly pulling herself into sitting position.  She looked down at herself as the covers fell to pool around her hips and waist. Her thick dark hair had been loosened from the head wrap and tumbled over her shoulder in thick braids.   They had removed the long earth colored duster she’d worn to protect her skin from the sun and replaced it with a long and pristine white dressing gown with a high collar.

She’d seen gowns like this in the tattered books and magazines that had been housed in the records room of the Gizli.  The beeping she’d heard were machines that monitored her heart and breathing. She looked at her arms to see tubes running from her arm to a bag that was suspended besides the bed where clear liquid flowed into her.

“Is this a – hosepitol?” She asked through the mask that was secured over her nose and mouth.  He reached up and gently removed the mask, making it easier for him to understand her.  She flinched as the cool air hit her raw and hoarse throat from days of being exposed to the elements. Her eyes still stung as if sand had been embedded.  She had been cleaned though, bathed, her hair washed and her skin smelled of rose water. She looked at the men, wondering which of them had seen her bare body, or if they had all taken turns staring at her lithe, tanned body.

“Hospital?  Sort of.  This is your room.  What is your name?”  The youngest of the men asked.  His hark hair had not yet began to grey like some of the other men.  His eyes were bright and clear, and as blue as the sky.  She had never seen eyes like that. The people of her valley had dark eyes and hair, their skin a tawny brown, where these men were pale as if the sun’s rays never touched their skin.  They were pretty men with soft features, she thought, thin lips, high cheekbones and round faces.  The men from Gizli had strong angular faces.  She found them to be mystifying and peculiar creatures, alien to her.

The others stared at her, then at the young man before the six slowly and silently exited the room.

“I am Sebastian.” He said when she did not answer.

“Lucy.” She mumbled. Suddenly, her heart began to race and the beeping increasing as she felt the dread knot tightening in her chest.

“Oliver. Where is Oliver?” She asked, ripping the mask from her face.  Sebastian placed a staying hand on her thigh and shushed her as the other men backed away.

“Oliver is fine.  He was in much worse condition and he needs more rest.  You two came a long way. “ She relaxed, feeling a sudden calm over her. Something in this strange man’s soothing tone and gentle touch worked like the sleep elixir her mother had given her when she’d been afflicted with the fevers.

“What were you two doing out there, Lucy?” He asked. She liked the way he said her name. She liked the way he looked, she decided.

“Oliver and I left before the Goä  began the matching ceremony.”  She said, tears welling in her deep brown eyes. Sebastian’s pretty face creased slightly.

“What is the matching ceremony?” He asked.

“The matching ceremony is when the Goä, the elders, match breeders to husbands. “  She said as if this were common knowledge.

“Breeders?” Sebastian asked.

“Women who can born a child. “  She said, her own brow creased in confusion.

“I do not understand. “ Sebastian said.

“After the great wars, most of the women in the valleys were taken by illnesses. Of those left, only a few were able to born a child, a healthy child.  The Goä decided that it would be best that those women were matched to the strongest and smartest of men.  In the valleys, men outnumber women ten to one. After a girl has her first year of bleeding, she is matched.   She is given to a husband, and if she borns two boys, she is matched to another until a girl is born.  Some women have been matched ten time or more. My own mother had seven matches before I was born.”

“And you wanted to be matched to Oliver?” He asked. Lucy laughed and shook her head.

“Oh goodness no.  Oliver is my kin, we share a mother.  Oliver is outcast in the valleys. He is- he does not- he – he is of like mind of the women.”

“You mean he is homosexual?”  Sebastian asked.

“You use such words,” Lucy sighed, a smile on her lips.  She was quiet pretty when she smiled, Sebastian thought as he looked at her. “Oliver lies with men the way a woman does.” She said.

“How old are you Lucy?”  He asked.

“I am eighteen years old.”

“And this is your first time being matched?”

She nodded and tears, once again filled those expressive brown eyes.  She sniffed and smiled weakly.

“I was a later bloomer.  Mother said that it is good luck. The women who bleed later almost always born girls first.   I was matched to the Goä Supreme. “

“And you did not want this?” Sebastian asked.

“Goä Supreme is very old and very cruel.  All of his matches have died while trying to born his children.   They all went to the illness. All of them. I did not want to be the next.”

“So you came here?  How did you know of this place?”

“As children we are told the history of the great wars.  We are told of the wars that started across the seas, about the magic city under the dome where the forbidden men and women live and do evil things with magic and machines. Only Oliver, Oliver found a man. A man who had come from the west many many years ago.  He lived in the broken city near the seas, where the fruit trees grow.  The man told Oliver that as a boy he had come from the City in search of more survivors.  He said the people here were scientists and smart men and women who lived in peace. He said that people like Oliver would be welcome and accepted. Oliver asked him to bring him here, but the man could only show him the way with his maps. When it was foretold by the Goä Mother that I was to be matched with the Goä Supreme, Oliver and I ran. “

“This man, who was he? What did he look like?” Sebastian asked.

“I never met the man. Oliver did. All I know is that he was very old when Oliver met him and that his name was Adam. Can I see Oliver now?” She asked, her throat becoming raw and dry, her eyes becoming heavy.

“Later.  We will talk again after you have rested and eaten. Rest well, Lucy.“  Sebastian said and left the room as quickly and as quietly as the others had.  The electric lights dimmed as he exited the room and she immediately feel into a deep dreamless sleep.

 ***

             For several weeks, Lucy and Sebastian followed this same pattern. He would enter her room, waking her from her slumber to ask her questions about illness and those in the east, but mostly he would ask her about Adam.

“I did not know Adam,” she would say,  ”you must ask Oliver.” He would test her blood and look at pages of test results.  One of the older men, the ones who did not speak to her had come and taken the tubes from her arms.  The beeping machines had been taken from the room and she could stand and  walk across the room.

On the first day she was allowed to walk across the carpet, she had found the sensation exhilarating.  She had been eager to sink her feet into the plush pink carpeting.  She got on all fours and sank her fingers into it, then lay on her back and reveled in the feel of the softness of the floor. The food that was brought was the most delicious she’d ever had, fresh fruit and fish from clean streams, beef, chicken and vegetables. Sebastian explained that the dome had its own ecological system and there were farms and gardens as well as schools and entertainment vaults.  One some nights he would bring actual movies to her bedroom and they would watch television shows on DVDs. They would listen to music and he would bring her books that still looked new.  He would teach her his words spend time with her. He was her friend, but she still felt unease with him sometimes.

She had even attempted to lift the shades on the windows to see what was on the other side. She had never seen and actual window and was curious as to the world inside the dome.  Instead, she found the shade locked into place.  Every day, Sebastian would come and every day she would as to see Oliver.

“He is still resting.  You will see him soon.” Sebastian would say before leaving her to the darkness of the bedroom.  On her second day, Lucy realized that something was strange about this place.   She only felt that way when Sebastian was not in the room with her.    She was never allowed beyond these walls. She had her own bathroom with a bathtub with hot and cold water, and new clothes. Her every need met, and all she had to do was let Sebastian and the others take her blood every few days. A small price to pay for everything she could ever need or want, yet she felt trapped. Like a prisoner in a perfect cell.

During the fifth week, when Sebastian entered the room, he found Lucy standing at the window. Her arms wrapped around her waist, her face set in grim determination.

“Good Morning, Lucy.” He said with that smile.

“I want to see Oliver.” She said ignoring the pleasantries.  “I want to see him now.”

“Do not upset yourself. You are still very weak-“He reached for her and she moved away.

“I am not weak.  That is something you know very well, with all of your tests and machines. You know that I am strong. I am also very smart, Sebastian.  I want to see Oliver, Now!” She screamed.

“Please, be calm. I will take you to see him.  Come.”  She calmed as he went to open the door, but she did not come close to him. She would not let him touch her.  Something about his smile was much more sinister than it had been before and it made her skin crawl.  He placed a hand on her lower back, and from the corner of her eye she saw a flash of metal only a split second before she reacted.

Deftly, she slapped at his hand, surprising him with her strength. She crouched low and kicked, sweeping his feet from under him.  He fell to the floor with a muted thud, the syringe embedded deeply into his upper thigh.  He grunted , slowly pulling the needle from his thigh seconds before she made her way for the door.

She threw the door open and raced down a narrow corridor awash in harsh yellow lighting. She ran blindly, pausing only briefly at the doors that lined that hallway, testing them, calling Oliver’s name before moving on.  Sebastian was hot on her heels, his pretty face twisted in anger as he raced after her.

“Lucy, Come back. Wait!”  He pleaded.

She was nearly ready to give up when she saw the bright light at the end of the tunnel. Her feet hurt as they pounded against the concrete, her breath coming in painful bursts.  Her side ached and she felt as if she were going to vomit. Instead, she pushed harder until she reached the end of the hallway and her expected salvation.

Instead, she came up short, stopping abruptly as she  came to stand on a metal grate  at the end of the hallway. She stared ahead in confused terror, her heart pounding and her eyes filling with tears.  Slowly, she approached the railing that lined the grated balcony that loned the interior of the massive room, her jaw slack.   Behiond her, she could hear Sebastian approaching. His own breathing labored and strained as he came to stand beside her.

“What is this place?”

She stared up at the curved ceiling of the dome, and then down across that massive interior her heart twisting in her chest.   She stared straight ahead at the massive structure; the girders that crisscrossed the space were lined with hundreds and hundreds of pods, filled with a pale blue liquid.  Above and below, the dome was lined with platforms exactly like the one on which she found herself.  Men in white coats moved on the platforms, taking these pods from the girders and loading them onto mechanized trollies. While others added pods that seemed to be empty.

The illuminated egg like pods shifted and rotated as the process continued. The grinding of metal and the smell of medicine filled the   canned air that filtered into this part of the dome. As the pods moved, she could see shapes behind the thick milky glass and her stomach twisted into knots. Some were full grown; others still developing, but the faces, young and old, were all the same.  Dark haired, soft featured men, all of them were…Sebastian!

All of them accept the newest additions to the unending assembly line.  Tears welled in her eyes as the angular features of Oliver drifted past.  “What have you done?” She asked her voice that of a mouse coming from some far off place.

“We also were affected by the great wars.   But unlike your people in the east, it hit us much, much harder. The survivors were devastated and even with our medicines and  science, we began to die.  Until Adam, the first of us and he was the last of us.  Adam was a great man of science and he found a way to keep us alive. Each of us is Adam and he is each of us.  When he realized that he could no longer sustain us or the dome on his own, he went in search of the others.   He had been gone for many years and we had given up hope.  Our genetic code was starting to weaken and we were dying. You can only copy a copy so many times before it is no longer a viable copy. So when you and Oliver came, it was a blessing. A gift sent by Adam to continue our line. We needed you, and you came.  You and Oliver are adding to our genetic material. You are our salvation. Don’t you see? “He embraced her and she pushed away.

“I want to go. Let me go!” She screamed, turning back to the sight before her and gasped as the next row of pods moved into view, covering her mouth with her hand to keep from screaming as a row of faces just as her own, floated before her eyes. Some had her tawny skin and dark hair, some had dark hair and rounded features, but the faces were all a variation of hers.  The one that looked most like her, opened her eyes and she groaned inwardly. It was her face with deep blue eyes, the color of the sky.   She didn’t even feel it when he injected her, only felt the suddenly heaviness in her eyes as she drifted into unconsciousness.

“We can’t let you go, Lucy. Not ever.  We need you. We need a breeder.”


Tanisha Jones is a writer of Urban Theological Mythological Slightly Erotic Romance or Paranormal romance for the less creative thinker.  She was born and raised in New Orleans, where she still lives with her daughter.  When she isn’t writing, she is a true New Orleanais either cooking, reading or watching the New Orleans Saints.

Follow Tanisha at:

Tanisha D Jones, Divinely Dark Romance:  http://tanishadelill.wordpress.com

Twitter: @tanishadelill

Website: www.tanishadjones.com

Band Contest – HorrorAddicts.net Theme Song LAST CALL!

Band Contest – HorrorAddicts.net Theme Song

offhabandsfThe theme for Season 13 is… “This place is CURSED!” So keep that in mind when submitting your song.

Every three seasons, HorrorAddicts.net chooses a new theme song.

Bands / Musicians are now welcome to submit their song for possible use on the show. If chosen, your song will be played as the theme song every show for three seasons.  Your band name will be mentioned on every show to thousands of listeners across the globe. HorrorAddicts.net is an international podcast with our largest fan bases located in: UK, USA, Australia, Canada, and South Africa.

The song submitted must be in mp3 format.
Send us an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com

Email must include:
*Your band name

*Short (100 words or less) bio.

ckgbadge*An mp3 of the song you’d like considered

*Contact email

*Picture of the band in png, or jpg format.

This contest closes Dec 31st, 2017 and winners will be announced publicly in 2018.

The new theme song will debut on Season 13 of HorrorAddicts.net starting in 2018.

By entering this contest, you are agreeing to allow your song played for three seasons of HorrorAddicts.net.

Band Contest – HorrorAddicts.net Theme Song

Band Contest – HorrorAddicts.net Theme Song

offhabandsfThe theme for Season 13 is… “This place is CURSED!” So keep that in mind when submitting your song.

Every three seasons, HorrorAddicts.net chooses a new theme song.

Bands / Musicians are now welcome to submit their song for possible use on the show. If chosen, your song will be played as the theme song every show for three seasons.  Your band name will be mentioned on every show to thousands of listeners across the globe. HorrorAddicts.net is an international podcast with our largest fan bases located in: UK, USA, Australia, Canada, and South Africa.

The song submitted must be in mp3 format.
Send us an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com

Email must include:
*Your band name

*Short (100 words or less) bio.

ckgbadge*An mp3 of the song you’d like considered

*Contact email

*Picture of the band in png, or jpg format.

This contest closes Dec 31st, 2017 and winners will be announced publicly in 2018.

The new theme song will debut on Season 13 of HorrorAddicts.net starting in 2018.

By entering this contest, you are agreeing to allow your song played for three seasons of HorrorAddicts.net.

Band Contest – HorrorAddicts.net Theme Song

Band Contest – HorrorAddicts.net Theme Song

offhabandsfThe theme for Season 13 is… “This place is CURSED!” So keep that in mind when submitting your song.

Every three seasons, HorrorAddicts.net chooses a new theme song.

Bands / Musicians are now welcome to submit their song for possible use on the show. If chosen, your song will be played as the theme song every show for three seasons.  Your band name will be mentioned on every show to thousands of listeners across the globe. HorrorAddicts.net is an international podcast with our largest fan bases located in: UK, USA, Australia, Canada, and South Africa.

The song submitted must be in mp3 format.
Send us an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com

Email must include:
*Your band name

*Short (100 words or less) bio.

ckgbadge*An mp3 of the song you’d like considered

*Contact email

*Picture of the band in png, or jpg format.

This contest closes Dec 31st, 2017 and winners will be announced publicly in 2018.

The new theme song will debut on Season 13 of HorrorAddicts.net starting in 2018.

By entering this contest, you are agreeing to allow your song played for three seasons of HorrorAddicts.net.

Band Contest – HorrorAddicts.net Theme Song

Band Contest – HorrorAddicts.net Theme Song

offhabandsfThe theme for Season 13 is… “This place is CURSED!” So keep that in mind when submitting your song.

Every three seasons, HorrorAddicts.net chooses a new theme song.

Bands / Musicians are now welcome to submit their song for possible use on the show. If chosen, your song will be played as the theme song every show for three seasons.  Your band name will be mentioned on every show to thousands of listeners across the globe. HorrorAddicts.net is an international podcast with our largest fan bases located in: UK, USA, Australia, Canada, and South Africa.

The song submitted must be in mp3 format.
Send us an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com

Email must include:
*Your band name

*Short (100 words or less) bio.

ckgbadge*An mp3 of the song you’d like considered

*Contact email

*Picture of the band in png, or jpg format.

This contest closes Dec 31st, 2017 and winners will be announced publicly in 2018.

The new theme song will debut on Season 13 of HorrorAddicts.net starting in 2018.

By entering this contest, you are agreeing to allow your song played for three seasons of HorrorAddicts.net.

Band Contest – HorrorAddicts.net Theme Song

Band Contest – HorrorAddicts.net Theme Song

offhabandsfThe theme for Season 13 is… “This place is CURSED!” So keep that in mind when submitting your song.

Every three seasons, HorrorAddicts.net chooses a new theme song.

Bands / Musicians are now welcome to submit their song for possible use on the show. If chosen, your song will be played as the theme song every show for three seasons.  Your band name will be mentioned on every show to thousands of listeners across the globe. HorrorAddicts.net is an international podcast with our largest fan bases located in: UK, USA, Australia, Canada, and South Africa.

The song submitted must be in mp3 format.
Send us an email to: horroraddicts@gmail.com

Email must include:
*Your band name

*Short (100 words or less) bio.

ckgbadge*An mp3 of the song you’d like considered

*Contact email

*Picture of the band in png, or jpg format.

This contest closes Dec 31st, 2017 and winners will be announced publicly in 2018.

The new theme song will debut on Season 13 of HorrorAddicts.net starting in 2018.

By entering this contest, you are agreeing to allow your song played for three seasons of HorrorAddicts.net.

Free Fiction Friday: The Ratter by Kay Tracy

The Ratter by Kay Tracy

I remember the first time. A warm late spring day in Lake Charles. It was humid and sticky. I did not like it, it was very ” unpleasant”, but momma insisted. “Too many to feed” she told me. “You won’t be eatin’ them when they are grown so…” I was six. I had no idea how to do this. This tiny baby rabbit, one of 6. I asked momma how I should do it. “I don’t care!” she said “You just go handle it girl!”

I was known as a curious child. By that I mean I was always looking in books, and encyclopedias to learn new things. I experimented. A lot. Momma mostly left me alone then. I think she might have been just a little afraid by the time I was ten. Did you know that alligators like the taste of rabbit? Among other things.

I had a nickname, though folks never used it to my face. I knew they called me ‘the Ratter’. I really didn’t mind. They paid me to deal with their “pests”. Sometimes they paid me very well. It wasn’t so bad now. You just had to figure out what the best type of bait was. The rest was usually quick, and almost too easy. I told myself way back when I was six, that “If I ever stop caring about doing the killing part, I would stop doing it.”

Momma used to say I had a gift, that what I did was a service that folks needed. She said I should be glad she made me take that task when I was little. She might have been right.

Sometimes things take a little longer than others. That can lead to certain ‘odors’. I learned that ammonia can help with those. Not too much though, just enough to do the job. The real secret though, like I said, was the bait. All the difference in the world between working easy or hard is in the bait.

No one ever asks how, or when. I never ask why. All folks want to know is “How much?” I always ask about a ‘deadline’, and what sort of ‘pest’ they want me to take care of. It keeps me busy enough, and I like my big house and car.

Funny how some folks never had a momma to teach them that they should “Just go handle it!”
That’s okay by me though. I always take the time to do things right. I care about my work. I think it shows too!

Well. If you ever need my services, just contact me.